Good afternoon to you, Insiders. The Los Angeles Kings held a 10:00 a.m. morning skate at Toyota Sports Center in advance of their game this evening against the San Jose Sharks (7:30 p.m. / FOX Sports West / FOX Sports GO / KABC 790 / I Heart Radio). Notes!
-Line rushes were replaced by flow-type drills, but it was still possible to get a sense of projected lines based on yesterday’s practice and those who remained out for extra work. Michael Amadio remained out for a good skate with Marian Gaborik and Darcy Kuemper, so expect a lineup comprised of Iafallo-Kopitar-Brown, Pearson-Kempe-Toffoli, Andreoff-Shore-Lewis and Cammalleri-Laich-Dowd up front, and a back end of Forbort-Doughty, Muzzin-Martinez and MacDermid-Fantenberg. There was some movement in defensive pairings during several drills, but I’m not expecting any changes to the blue line. Jonathan Quick was the first goaltender off the ice and is projected to start in net.
-Adrian Kempe has recovered after a bout with the flu. He’ll be back in tonight’s lineup. This is the time of the year where there’s a bug going through a lot of dressing rooms. Having spent Tuesday in Anaheim, I know it had affected the Ducks, as well.
-San Jose enters tonight’s game leading the league with an average of 2.33 goals-against per game. Their penalty kill ranks second, one spot below Los Angeles, with an 89.5% success rate. On the flip side, only three teams have scored fewer goals than the Sharks’ 41. Given their physicality and ability to keep the puck out of their own net, how similar are they, at least on a surface level, to several recent Kings teams?
“I think it’s a little bit of a stretch. There’s differences in their game,” John Stevens said. “The one thing with San Jose, you give them credit, they’ve really built a strong identity of how they want to play. They basically eliminated the neutral zone. They don’t mess around in the neutral zone. They’ve convinced their guys, and it starts with their top guys – Thornton and Pavelski and Couture – those guys want to forecheck all the time. They’re very good at it, and they take pride in getting pucks behind you and winning battles below the goal line. But in the sense that they built their team on defense-first, for sure. They’re the number one defensive team in the league, and I still think they’re dangerous offensively. Their power play probably hasn’t produced as much as it has in the past, but when you watch it, it’s certainly capable and all the elements are there. But clearly they’ve build their success on being really good defensively.”
-Martin Jones is projected to start in net for San Jose one night after Aaron Dell picked up the second shutout of his career with a 41-save whitewashing of Vancouver. The Sharks won that game, 5-0, but that’s a misleading scoreline. San Jose scored two empty net goals and converted a penalty shot over the final two minutes of the game, leading to a Mercury-News headline that read, “Dell shines as Sharks grind out win over Vancouver Canucks.” Head Coach Peter DeBoer described it as an “ugly win.” There was also this:
Joe Thornton played just 14:00 minutes tonight. After he missed two of the last three practices due to “maintenance,” that is a bit concerning.
— Kevin Kurz (@KKurzNHL) November 12, 2017
Sitting near the ice Wednesday, I noticed that Jumbo’s knee was not treating him well. Could sense some moves were not easy for him. He tested it before each period even when not starting that period. Made me wonder if he needs more healing time. https://t.co/d95jOctlE6
— Mark Purdy (@MercPurdy) November 12, 2017
Meanwhile, Joe Pavelski’s next goal will be the 300th of his NHL career. 22 of his 299 goals have come over 59 games against Los Angeles. “He’s really good at finding space,” Dustin Brown said. “He’s not the biggest guy or the fastest guy, but he goes to the areas where you score goals and he competes in those areas. So it’s trying to be hard on him in those areas. He has that mid-zone tip. That’s probably what he’s best known for, right? So it’s trying to not give him that. It’s not an easy thing to do and he’s very good at it, but if you can get a body next to him and take away his stick it eliminates a lot of that. But he’s good at finding that area.”
-Tonight’s officials are referees Ghislain Hebert and Francis Charron. Linesmen are Travis Gawryletz and Lonnie Cameron. Pia Toscano will sing the national anthem. Quotes and a chat with John Stevens and Dustin Brown about ways to improve the misleading statistic of “hits” will follow. Let’s talk soon, Insiders.
-Lead photo via Juan Ocampo/NHLI