Game Day in Pittsburgh! After a travel day yesterday, the Kings were on the ice in full this morning before they will take on the Penguins tonight at PPG Paints Arena (4:00 p.m. PT / FOX Sports West / FOX Sports GO / LA Kings Audio Network). Below we’ve got an idea at tonight’s lineup and more!
KINGS VITALS: Jonathan Quick was the first netminder off this morning and is expected to re-take his place between the pipes tonight. The goaltender is 4-4-4 lifetime against the Penguins, with Quick taking the OTL the last time these two teams met in Pittsburgh. Quick has been a rock for the Kings as of late. Since November 9, the netminder has posted a 7-5-1 record, to go along with a 2.09 GAA and a .921 SV%, stemming from 314 saves on 341 shots against.
“I’d describe him as stubborn, and I think that’s a real good quality for him and the team,” Kings Head Coach Todd McLellan said following today’s morning skate in Pittsburgh. “He’s determined. If it’s going good, he’s steady on the rudder, if it’s not going so good he’s stubborn and he wants to get back in there and fix things, so I think that type of demeanor rubs off on his teammates and guys want to play for him. I’ve been on teams where players play with the goaltender. In Quickie’s case, I think they want to play for him and I think that’s way more valuable and more powerful.”
Line rushes from this morning’s skate, partnered with who was on late, would indicate a similar group this evening for the Kings both up front (19-11-23, 13-77-22, 9-46-51, 73-10-64) and on defense (6-8, 15-3, 56-26), but we’ll know for sure closer to puck drop tonight.
McLellan has been happy with the Kings’ 5-on-5 play as of late, as well as their ability to stay out the penalty box and continue to keep four lines rolling throughout games.
“That’s important for our team. If we can maintain a four-line rotation, bigger bodies playing quality minutes and not playing tired. Handing off a good shift to the next line so they can come out and get going, it certainly favors our team I think in most cases. Refer back to the Calgary game, when we got a little short staffed with Pro leaving and Cliffy getting kicked out of the game, all of a sudden you go to a three-line team and it slows us down a little bit. All four lines have been contributing, six defensemen have been playing well. This will be a real stiff test for us tonight, I think this team is going to test anybody’s work ethic in this league, with the way they grind it out, with the same checking mentality and the goaltending that they’ve gotten over the past few weeks. I’m sure they’ll present that test and it’ll be a big challenge.
PENGUINS VITALS: We know that the Penguins did not hold a full-team morning skate this morning. Embedded below, we know how the Penguins lined up last time out against Columbus. We know that Evgeni Malkin did not play in that game, we know that he did skate as a part of a small group this morning, but we know that forward Joseph Blandisi was recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on emergency recall earlier today. We can say that this points to Malkin perhaps not being ready to go tonight, and Blandisi taking his place back in the Pittsburgh lineup…..but really we do not know. If Malkin is indeed absent, it would likely push Jake Guentzel back to center, as he is pictured below.
UPDATE – Malkin is OUT tonight. Expect Blandisi in his place.
Lined up and ready to go. pic.twitter.com/7ID7In0guL
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) December 12, 2019
Who do we expect between the pipes? If it’s Tristan Jarry, it would mark the first time in the netminder’s history that he’s faced the Kings in his NHL career. Jarry is 3-1-0 in his last four games played, with all three victories coming via the shutout. All three wins came on home ice and the 24-year-old netminder has posted shutouts of 17, 33 and 28 saves in wins over Columbus, Arizona and St. Louis respectively.
Defenseman Ben Hutton will take the ice tonight in the city he was drafted in back in 2012. A special moment?
“I wasn’t actually at the draft,” he said this morning with a laugh.
*Throws out idea, starts over*
Hear more from Hutton a bit later this week, as I’ll take a bit of a deeper look at how the Kings’ defensive corps has shaken out behind Drew Doughty this season.
“We all feel like on any given night, we can all set up and play big roles, play big minutes and everyone can contribute all over the rink. Offensively, defensively, everything. I feel like our d-core is pretty deep that way, which only helps. If one guy is having an off night, the next guy can step up and help him out.”
Some good stuff from chatting with Ben, as I’ll look to do with others over the course of the next few days.
For now, we shift over to take a look at defenseman Matt Roy, who has done his share of stepping up as of late, to the tune of four points (1-3-4) over his last three games played. When he first came into the league, breaking in last season, Roy’s emphasis and results were more seen at the defensive end. As he grew in comfort, has his approach, or his output changed?
“That’s still my mindset [to take care of his own end first],” Roy said. “I’m just trying to get pucks to the net and the forwards are doing most of the work down low. I’m just trying to play good D and get pucks to the net when I can…. I’m not leading the rush by any means, but I like to play offense and try to get pucks to the net when I can.”
In his last eight games, Roy has played 18+ minutes in seven of those contests. Prior to that, Roy had exceeded 18 minutes just twice in his first 25 games played with the Kings this season, marking a pretty severe uptick in playing time for the still technically a rookie by NHL standards.
“You obviously notice when you play more, but you don’t really think about it too much when you’re playing, you just kind of get into a groove,” Roy said. “I’m just trying to do my part.”
His part has been providing what looks to be the same effort and output on a nightly basis. Roy won’t flash you with any one part of his game in particular, but that’s the beauty of him. What you see is what you get and what you get doesn’t change much night-to-night. Consistency and steady play, sounds pretty good.
Just steady,” McLellan said of Roy. “Very predictable, you know what you’re going to get from him shift after shift. It doesn’t mean it’s mistake free, but they’re honest mistakes and he’s providing a little more offense, using his shot a little bit more, getting it off and having the confidence to get it there. A lot of real positives in his game right now.”
Game Thread from Pittsburgh is up next!