Who: Los Angeles Kings (13-18-2, 28 points, last place Pacific Division, Western Conference) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (18-10-4, 40 points, 4th place Metropolitan Division)
When: 7:00 p.m. eastern
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in Pittsburgh viewing area, Fox Sports West
Opponent Track: Time zone problems for the Kings? Thursday night they played basically across town in Anaheim, then flew east yesterday and start an east coast swing that taeks them to Detroit tomorrow and later Boston, Columbus, Buffalo next week. West coast teams are used to the travel and miles a bit more, but they don’t have much recovery time. The Kings did defeat the Ducks 2-1 on Thursday, to give them a modest two-game winning streak after losing the first four games they played in December.
Pens path ahead: Get the passports ready, the Pens head north of the border to play Calgary on Tuesday night. Then they’re @Edmonton on Friday and make the quick turn to @Vancouver next Saturday before getting to enjoy a five day Christmas break.
Season Series: The Penguins don’t head to Cali until the end of February, they’ll be out in LA to conclude the season series with the Kings on Feb 26th.
Recent History: Pittsburgh has done well against LAK of late, going 3-1-0 in the last four meetings. In the last 14 games between the two, the Pens are 8-3-3
SBN Team Counterpart: Check out our pals at Jewels from the Crown to get in on the King related action.
Tale of the Tape
(accurate but league ranks are as of Friday 12/13)
—Surprisingly enough, the Kings are a team of great “process”. They shoot the puck a lot and limit opponents shots. Yet they’re one of the worst teams in the league. Why? They’re bad at scoring on their shots, and their goalies don’t give a lot of saves. Oh, and both of their special teams units are close to league-worst.
—The Pens’ shooting has slumped as of late, no surprise considering the injuries starting to add up.
Player Stats at a Glance
—Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty remain very good, but then...Not a ton of help around this year for the front-line players. Older players like Jeff Carter and Ilya Kovalchuk (no longer with the team) and Dustin Brown have fallen off big time from where they were as players 5-10 years ago.
—Blake Lizzotte (LA) and Jon Lizzotte (current Wilkes-Barre defender) played together in 2014-15 in Minot (NAHL) and for two seasons at St. Cloud State from 2017-19. But despite sharing the same last name, they’re not related. Weird, random trivia, but just in case that rung a bell.
He said it...
Todd McLellan is in his first year with the Kings and shared these thoughts following the Thursday night LA win over Anaheim, via LA Kings Insider:
Todd McLellan, on the win:
One, it was on the road. It’s been said and written and talked about as far as road goes, and it was a good road win for us. Grind it out. The way we won was a lot more checking than cheating, which is always a good thing, too. We got a power play goal. I thought the faceoffs down the stretch after the first period went our way and we had the puck a little bit more than we did in the first and that helped us as well. Again, a good team effort, great goaltending. You need all those things to win, especially on the road.
McLellan, on the improvement compared to where the team was two weeks ago:
Well, two weeks ago I didn’t think we were that bad, either. Our game has improved incrementally and slowly but not dramatically over two or three weeks. We’ve been playing the same game, we just haven’t been getting the wins or a bounce here and there. Maybe now it’ll start to go our way, but I think the group is improved immensely from day one at training camp through the first four or five days in a lot of different areas, and we’re making progress. Finding some rewards every now and then with wins is always reassuring.
Possible Lines (based on Thursday game)
Alex Iafallo - Anze Kopitar - Dustin Brown
Trevor Lewis - Jeff Carter - Kyle Clifford
Adrian Kempe - Blake Lizzotte - Austin Wagner
Matt Luff - Mike Amadio - Tyler Toffoli
Joakim Ryan / Drew Doughty
Ben Hutton / Matt Roy
Kurtis MacDermid / Sean Walker
Expected scratches: Paul LaDue, Ilya Kovalchuk, Nikolai Prokhorkin
Injured reserve: Alec Martinez, Derek Forbort
—Not sure what the message being sent to Toffoli by the coach is right now, but hey, might make him more available for a future rental possibility if he’s not seen as a part of the future.
—The Kovalchuk saga was a weird one. About a month ago the team took the unusual step to tell the veteran he would no longer be playing for them. Reports have said Kovalchuk has one more bonus payment due 12/15 and after that point he may be out of limbo and the two sides may agree on some sort of contract termination or official severance with the team, likely signally the end of the 36-year old’s NHL career.
And now for the Pens..
Potential Lines (based on Wednesday practice)
Jake Guentzel - Evgeni Malkin - Bryan Rust
Dominik Kahun- Jared McCann - Zach Aston-Reese
Alex Galchenyuk - Teddy Blueger - Brandon Tanev
Dominik Simon- Sam Lafferty - Stefan Noesen
John Marino / Kris Letang
Jack Johnson /Justin Schultz
Marcus Pettersson/ Chad Ruhwedel
Expected scratches: Juuso Riikola (healthy)
Injured Reserve: Sidney Crosby (core muscle surgery), Nick Bjugstad (core muscle surgery), Patric Hornqvist (lower body injury), Brian Dumoulin (ankle surgery)
—Blandisi got sent back to the AHL yesterday, so we’ll assume Malkin is over his sickness and able to play? Should be anyways since there’s no other forward options unless Blandisi is summoned yet again.