INSIDERS. Hockey Night in Los Angeles. Silver Jerseys. Michael Vartan. FOX Sports West. FOX Sports app. LA Kings Audio Network. 7:30 p.m. The lineup:
–The vitals: Jonathan Quick was the first goalie off the ice and is projected to start in goal versus Boston, against whom he is 10-5-1 with a 2.08 goals-against average, a .928 save percentage and two shutouts. Jeff Carter skated with the team and is expected to return to the lineup as the second line center. Alec Martinez (1-2 weeks) and Sean Walker (day-to-day) are out with upper-body injuries but remain on the active roster. The Kings have scored at least three goals in six straight games and seven of their last eight. “You’re always worried about the first game back out of a trip, and I thought we played well in that first game. I thought the team did a great job,” Willie Desjardins said. “So now that you don’t worry about the first, now you’re worried about the second one.”
–Their vitals: The Bruins are coming off a 3-0 win at Anaheim last night in which Jaroslav Halak made 30 saves. They’ve won four straight, are 6-0-3 in their last nine and are 8-1-2 on the second night of back-to-back sets. Tuukka Rask, who is 4-3-1 against Los Angeles with a 2.43 GAA, a .922 Sv% and two shutouts, will start in goal, Head Coach Bruce Cassidy confirmed. 31-goal man David Pastrnak, who underwent thumb surgery earlier this week, is on injured reserve. With forward Karson Kuhlman poised to make his NHL debut, Cassidy confirmed David Backes will be a healthy scratch. “We want to look at Kuhlman, that’s why he was brought in here and then we’ll decide on Monday [who plays in San Jose],” he said, via BostonBruins.com. “I don’t think he’s happy about it. I wouldn’t be if I was in his shoes. He’s a competitive guy, wants to play.” Expect a Boston lineup of Marchand-Bergeron-Heinen, DeBrusk-Krejci-Cehlarik, Nordstrom-Frederic-Kuhlman and Kuraly-Acciari-Wagner up front and defensive pairings of Chara-McAvoy, Krug-Carlo and Grzelcyk-Miller. Santa Clarita native Kevan Miller is a former L.A. Junior King, Ventura Mariner and West Valley Wolf who attended Canyon High for two years before graduating from Berkshire School in Sheffield, Massachusetts.
–Tanner Pearson was a healthy scratch for Pittsburgh’s 5-4 loss to the Calgary Flames earlier this afternoon. Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette offered some context yesterday, referencing his overtime goal at Madison Square Garden three seasons ago after Darryl Sutter had taken him out of the lineup the game prior.
–The Bruins are among the teams with a good mix of speed and size, an evolution of a notedly heavy and competitive game with some similarities to the LA Kings around the time the two teams combined to win three Stanley Cups in a four-year span.
Both teams’ styles have evolved amidst a game that has sped up in pace. But both Los Angeles and Boston have players strong on the puck capable of generating threatening possession through offensive zone cycles and switch-offs – Boston to a better degree of success this season – that free up shots and scoring chances.
“I think that’s something that we still have here is we have some big guys that like to cycle down low that are hard to handle down low,” Desjardins said. “I think Boston’s got a little bit of a different mix because their big line – Marchand and Bergeron – aren’t big guys, but they’re quick and they play hard. I think there’s lots of different ways you can be hard to handle. One’s speed, one’s size, and Boston has a little bit of a combination.”
There was a good demonstration of this in the Bruins’ first goal against the Kings last Saturday, when the wheels of the top line started spinning, allowing Charlie McAvoy to activate and set up a cycle in which he fed the puck to Danton Heinen, who accelerated along the perimeter towards the top of the zone. Instead of leaving the puck for Brad Marchand as an option above the right circle and forcing the Kings to switch coverage, he instead created some confusion by dishing the puck to the far post, where Patrice Bergeron then found McAvoy for a tap in below the Los Angeles defense.
The Bruins, who are not among the largest teams in the league by average height, remain one of the top possession teams in the league. They’re sixth in raw Corsi-for, continuing a decade in which their 52.7% CF% ranks second in the league since 2010-11 to Los Angeles’ 53.9%.
What’s the best recipe towards limiting Boston’s efforts to maintain possession through movement and cycles?
“Obviously, you’ve got to remain on your toes, be aware,” Adrian Kempe said. “Try to read who’s down there, if there’s a D down there, if there’s two forwards, and then just try to stay on the right side of pucks and play heavy and play aggressive and I think if we can turn the puck over down there we have a good chance to go the other way an odd man rush. They like manning up plays and stuff like that and we just need to find the right style and play aggressive and finish. Don’t give them as much time as we did a couple times the last game.”
Desjardins liked the resilience the team showed in Boston last Saturday but also acknowledged the shell-shocked start to the third period in which Los Angeles allowed three goals in a 3:22 span that turned a one-goal lead into a two-goal deficit. Tonight, he’ll want to see the Kings move their feet and be quick to disrupt the exchanges.
“I think with anything, it’s how tight you are to your coverage,” he said. “If you’re a long ways away, they’re going to get lots of speed, but if you’re on them as soon as they get the puck and you can get them before they get to speed, then that helps you. For us, we talked about second-quick. We’ve got to have our second guy so when that first pass is made, our second guy has got to be ready to jump that pass before the guy gets speed.”
–Tonight’s officials are referees Francis Charron and Trevor Hanson and linesmen/brothers Brandon and Travis Gawryletz. Will Jay will sing the national anthem. Enjoy your Saturday evening, Insiders. Let’s talk soon.
Willie Desjardins, on any changes to minutes allotted to the fourth line, given their recent success:
It’s funny, because I talked to the fourth line today a little bit – our so-called fourth line – and I said as a coach it’s interesting. How much do you look back at history, and how much do you just look at the last couple games, and I think it’s always your sample size. If you have a small sample size, you probably don’t rely on it. The bigger it gets, the more you have to look at it. They’ve put together quite a few games. Like, they’ve put together a number of games. It’s not just one game, it’s not just one period. They got some shifts – I was sitting after two periods last game, I thought Cliffy only had six minutes. He’s got to get more. I’ve got to get him more minutes. We had power play, penalty kill and it backed him off a little bit. It helps them too, being fresh. If you play lots of minutes, I think it’s a little harder for ‘em. But you’ve got to love how hard they work and what they’re creating, so they’ve been good. Anyways, it all comes into play, I certainly evaluate it. [Reporter: They’ve earned your trust to play late in games, is that safe to say?] They haven’t given up many chances against. It’s not just offense. They haven’t given up a lot. My sample size with Kopitar is big. He’s won a lot of big faceoffs. The sample size with Carter’s big. So, it’s harder to move those two guys out of those spots because I have a lot of confidence in what they do. It’s not saying you don’t have a lot of confidence in the other guys, it’s just that those guys have proven it, and until they don’t prove it, they probably remain there.
Rasmus Kupari scored his 11th goal of the season in today’s #Liiga game between Kärpät and Ässät.
— Lassi Alanen (@lassialanen) February 16, 2019
–Lead photo via Adam Pantozzi/NHLI