Good afternoon from downtown St. Louis, Insiders. There’s a really good game on FOX Sports West between the Kings (9-1-1) and Blues (9-2-1) tonight, with pre-game coverage beginning at 4:30 p.m. PT. Los Angeles is expected to ice the following lineup:
-Jonathan Quick was the first goalie off the ice at the morning skate and is expected to start. Center Nick Shore, who has dealt with an undisclosed injury on the road trip, and defenseman Oscar Fantenberg, who missed Saturday’s game in Boston with back spasms, skated together during rushes and remained on the ice for extra work.
-Time flies: Drew Doughty will play in his 700th career NHL game tonight. “700 games is pretty crazy, and to be able to do it with the same team is even cooler,” he said. “It’s an exciting time for me, but when the puck drops, I won’t be thinking about that anymore. I’m just going out there to try and get a win. We’ve had a good road trip thus far, but it’s not over, and we’ve got to win tonight.”
-Speaking of the road trip, there’s some historical context involved. Surprisingly, though the team went 5-0-0 in a five-game trip in 2009-10, their best record in a six-game trip is 4-2-0, accomplished in 1986-87 and 1988-89. At the very least, they’ll equal that tonight. And while the team won’t be able to match the best month in club history – that’s 22 points, set with an 11-3-0 record in January, 2002 – with one point they’ll break the record for the most points earned in October, set by the 1990-91 team (9-3-1). The most wins Los Angeles has ever recorded in any month is 11, set by the 2001-02 club (January) and the 2013-14 club (March).
-The team announced today that there are three Holiday Ice locations across the Southland:
-The Pike Outlets: 95 S. Pine Ave., Long Beach 90802
Opens: November 17; Closes: January 7
-Westfield Topanga: 6100 Topanga Canyon Blvd., Woodland Hills 91367
Opens: November 17; Closes: January 14
-L.A. LIVE: 800 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles 90015
Opens: November 25; Closes: TBD
Visit LAKings.com/HolidayIce for more information.
-The Kings and Blues are, once again, structured similarly. Both teams have accentuated their pace and speed in recent years and will encourage a mobile set of defensemen to join the rush. This is, of course, different from the war-of-attrition rivalry from earlier this decade that spawned a 2013 playoff series in which the teams combined for 479 hits in six games.
“These are some of the most fun games in the league, playing this team,” Doughty said. “It’s a battle out there. It’s a playoff game every single time. They have a very similar system to us and very similar personnel, so it’s a lot of fun. It’s just a battle, really.”
The trend towards tempo and speed is not limited to Los Angeles and St. Louis. The game has sped up, and with it came several teams that were more associated with a “heavier” game.
“I think the whole league is kind of going that way,” Alec Martinez said. “You look at Pittsburgh winning the last couple years, that’s the way they play. And I know that they’re in the east and the west is still a little bit different, but I think that the west is maybe kind of going to an adaptation, maybe of what a combo of what the ‘old’ west was and what the east is. You definitely take notice.”
It’s resulted in 13 goals from a St. Louis defense that continues to rely heavily on Alex Pietrangelo. The familiar right-shot defenseman has four goals and 12 points thus far and ranks eight hin the league with an average ice time of 25:49 per game.
“In order to be successful in this league, that’s what you need,” Martinez continued. “You need the D getting up in the play. I think if you look at all the successful teams as of late, they generate a lot off the rush, and I think St. Louis is definitely a team that’s doing that and what we’re trying to do, too, so it’ll be a good match-up tonight.”
There’s also the element of “will.” The more intangible base of Los Angeles’ win at Boston on Saturday was evident in the second to last shift of the third period when Anze Kopitar’s line was clearly not sitting back and clearly pushing for a win in regulation. Tonight, they’ll face a team that has outscored opponents 11-4 in first periods and hasn’t lost in any fashion at Scottrade Center, going 4-0-0.
“You’ve got to know coming into this building that they’ve historically had very, very good starts here,” Martinez said. “We’ve been on the receiving end of that a lot, between regular season and playoff series against ‘em. I think it’s just a mindset and being sharp and executing on that mindset at the beginning of the game.”
Jonathan Quick factors into any discussion of “will.” Two games after he earned his 46th career shutout in his 500th career start, the Kings will need a similar backing, especially on the final game of a six-game trip against a team with a similar record. He’s been very good in this building before.
“St. Louis is a team that even though it doesn’t seem like we have a lot of history, we feel the history against that team in the room,” Doughty said. “Like I said, it’s a battle every time. Every time we play St. Louis, you remember that game because it was such a hard game to play in. I know they’re feeling the same way. It’s hard to play against us, too. It’s fun playing against them. It’s the first game of the season. We have to show them that we’re for real, and I think they’re at the top of the league too right now, so it’s a big game and whoever wins this first one has the edge going into the rest of the season.”
-Lead photo via Scott Rovak/NHLI