The Kings, coming off a game last night in Pittsburgh, visit the Red Wings, coming off of a game last night in Montreal, to complete the back-to-back set for both teams. (4:00 p.m. PT / FOX Sports West / FOX Sports GO / LA Kings Audio Network). We have……no clue really on how either team will line up this evening, after neither side skated today in Detroit.
KINGS VITALS: The Kings have played back-to-back games four times this season and have rotated goalies from Game 1 to Game 2 in each set thus far. If that pattern remains consistent, it would point to Jack Campbell getting the start tonight in his native state of Michigan. Campbell has never started an NHL game in Detroit, but is 1-0-0 against the Red Wings lifetime, after he stopped 36-of-38 in a 4-2 Kings victory at STAPLES Center in October 2018.
Los Angeles has won four of the past six meetings against Detroit, including a 3-2 overtime victory on home ice earlier this season. Anze Kopitar, Adrian Kempe and Alex Iafallo scored in that win, with Kempe’s goal coming inside two minutes remaining in regulation to tie the game and Iafallo’s tally coming in overtime for the game winner.
Here’s how the Kings lined up last night –
Iafallo – Kopitar – Brown
Clifford – Carter – Lewis
Kempe – Lizotte – Wagner
Toffoli – Amadio – Luff
Ryan – Doughty
Hutton – Roy
MacDermid – Walker
RED WINGS VITALS: Similar to the Kings, the Red Wings played last night, so their lineup remains a bit of a mystery for tonight’s game. Also similar to the Kings, the Red Wings have not started a goalie on back-to-back nights yet this season through six editions of games on consecutive days. Goaltender Jonathan Bernier had the nod yesterday against Montreal, and earned a 2-1 victory, with Eric Comrie, who was recently claimed on waivers, currently on the roster as the second goaltender.
If it is indeed Comrie who gets the nod, he would be making just his third NHL appearance of the season, all of which have come with Detroit. Comrie’s path to the Red Wings has been a windy road, as he began the season in Winnipeg’s organization, was claimed off waivers by Arizona and then traded to Arizona, with visa issues in between limiting him to just two appearances in the NHL and four in the AHL this season (with the Tucson Roadrunners). Comrie earned one of two career NHL victories versus the Kings in the 2017-18 season, as he made 16 saves on 17 shots in a 2-1 Winnipeg overtime victory over Los Angeles.
But anyways…..here is how the Red Wings lined up last night –
Tonight’s projected lineup.
Puck drops at 7:00pm.
— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) December 14, 2019
After losing four straight, the Kings have now collected a point in three straight games, including two in a row on the road.
When asked yesterday morning what he’s liked about his team as of late, McLellan has been happy with the play of the group at even strength.
“5-on-5 play,” McLellan said, when asked what’s stood out to him over his team’s two wins this week. “We’ve been able to check pretty well, especially on the defensive side. If you look at the goals that we gave up, going back in our last 4 or 5 games, some have been on the penalty kill, not many 5-on-5, so the ability to check and give ourselves a chance in low-scoring affairs has been a nice thing, something that we need. If you look at the beginning of the year, We were scoring enough but giving up way too many, so I think we’re starting to find a balance and starting to do a better job of that.”
At even strength, one player who has generated opportunities as of late is forward Jeff Carter. Carter has had a shot on goal in 19 consecutive games, with multiple shots on goal in 17-of-19 and 3+ shots on goal in 11-of-19, including three last night against Pittsburgh with one of which leading to a primary assist.
“I think, if you look at my career, I’ve always been a guy who shoots the puck,” Carter told Jon Rosen earlier this week. “You can’t score if you don’t shoot, so when I go out there, if I have a chance to put it on net it’s going on net. I’m not trying to make the fancy play, so that’s kind of where we’re at.”
At 3.24 shots on goal, Carter is averaging his highest total since the 2013-14 season (3.56) and his seven even-strength goals is just one fewer than he collected all of last season – He is also tied for the Kings lead in even-strength tallies this season, with Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown. Compared to that 2013-14 season, Carter is averaging essentially an identical number of shots per 60 minutes. While below his career average (.26 even-strength goals per game), Carter is on pace to post a clip of .21 per game in the 2019-20 season, which would amount to ~17 goals at 5-on-5 over the course of 82 games.
Many of Carter’s chances come from in close and if you look at especially where his goals have come from, it’s been from getting into good areas on the ice and his goals have come from close in on the crease. Last night’s Kings victory was a testament to that, as all four of the team’s goals came from close range.
“You look at the game now, 90% of the goals come from within three feet of the net, probably, unless it’s a point shot that goes through five guys and the goalie doesn’t see it,” Carter said. “Not too often, and not too many guys in the league, are coming down and ripping shots from the top of the circle and going straight in. Pucks and bodies to the net.”
While by self admission, his shot totals might be a bit inflated, he still ranks third amongst Kings forwards in 5-on-5 shot attempts for this season while he’s been on the ice. Carter’s assist yesterday was a prime example of how pucks to the net can lead to scoring opportunities. Carter wired a slap shot from the top of the right circle, a low percentage shot to go in on its own, but a high percentage shot to generate some sort of rebound. In this instance, the puck fell to Kyle Clifford charging the net, who was able to slot it home into a gaping net.
“A lot of the [opportunities] are within three, four, five feet of the net,” he added. “I think with me, I throw a lot of pucks to the net, from the corner, from the half-wall, wherever, that probably gets my totals up a little higher than high-quality chances, but pretty much all of my goals have been around the net, so that’s where I’m going.”
The Mo-Town Man
As mentioned earlier, Jack Campbell could play tonight in his home state of Michigan, alongside defenseman Matt Roy, who is a Canton, Michigan native.
Roy is a Canton, MI native, which is about 25 minutes away from Detroit. The blueliner is expecting a large contingent of friends and family in attendance at tonight’s game at Little Caesar’s arena.
While it will be Roy’s first NHL game in his home state, it won’t be his first game overall – While in the AHL last season with Ontario, Roy skated in Grand Rapids, MI, as the Reign skated to a 4-3 victory over the Griffins, with the defenseman collecting a pair of assists in a comeback victory. But tonight’s game marks an even more special moment for Roy, who grew up watching and supporting the Red Wings.
“I actually didn’t go to too many [Red Wings games] growing up, but I watched every single one that I could,” Roy said. “It’ll be my first time playing there, so it’ll be fun playing in front of my friends and family.”
While his first game here in Detroit, the two teams did square off earlier this season in Southern California, with Los Angeles skating to a 3-2 win and Roy collecting an assist on the game-tying goal. Roy pointed to that first meeting as helping to dampen the nerves a little bit in advance of tonight’s action.
“Yeah, it’ll be a little bit weird at first. I mean, we played them earlier in the year, so I think that I won’t be as nervous going into it, but it will be special.”