2/6 Preview – Lineup unclear, defensive pinches, Carter, Reign debut

WHO: Los Angeles Kings (3-5-2) @ Vegas Golden Knights (6-1-1)
WHAT: NHL REGULAR SEASON GAME
WHEN: Sunday, February 6 @ Noon Pacific
WHERE: T-Mobile Arena – Las Vegas, Nevada
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: Fox Sports West – AUDIO – iHeart Radio – TWITTER: @DooleyLAK

TONIGHT’S MATCHUP: The LA Kings are back in action tonight for their first afternoon matinee of the 2020-21 season. The Kings faceoff against the Vegas Golden Knights, in a repeat of Friday evening’s matchup.

HEAD-TO-HEAD: For just the fourth time in the previous 12 regular-season meetings, the Kings fell in regulation against Vegas, by a 5-2 final on Friday. The Golden Knights, coming off an extended layoff due to COVID-19 protocols, scored three times in the first period, en-route to a big win. For the Kings, forward Dustin Brown led the way with a multi-point game (1-1-2), while forward Austin Wagner also scored for the visitors. Defenseman Nicolas Hague had a career-best three points (1-2-3) to lead Vegas, while forwards William Karlsson (1-2-3) and Max Pacioretty (0-3-3) each had three points in the win.

KINGS VITALS: Here is how the Kings will line up for today’s game –

What we know is that Martin Frk is not expected in tonight’s lineup. Frk exited Friday’s game late in the second period with a lower-body injury, did not return, and did not practice yesterday. We could, however, see the return of Matt Luff to the lineup. Luff was out with an injury since the second game of the season, but practiced all week, and was activated back to the active roster on Friday afternoon.

On the blueline, McLellan said yesterday that “I don’t know what the answer is at noon on Saturday, but we better know by noon on Sunday.”

It is almost noon on Sunday, and we will soon know if he plans to make any changes on a backend that was overwhelmed early on by the speed that Vegas brought in transition.

“We’re juggling some things around, we’re talking about using maybe a different player or two,” McLellan said yesterday. “Then, the other consideration is with the players that played, they felt the pace, they felt the type of game that was thrown at them, so maybe it’s a good idea to use them again.

While McLellan did not name a starter for today’s game, the rotation between goaltenders to date would signal it could be Cal Petersen’s turn in net, after Jonathan Quick started on Friday evening.

Petersen entered in relief on Friday and stopped 26 of the 27 shots he faced in nearly two full periods of action. In five appearances this season, Petersen has posted a .935 save percentage and a 2.18 goals against average. Petersen’s save percentage in all situations, and his even-strength save percentage of .953, trail only Montreal’s Jake Allen amongst netminders with at least five games played.

In his NHL career, Petersen has faced the Golden Knights three times and has posted stout numbers. The Notre Dame product is 2-0-0 with a .947 save percentage and a 1.87 goals against average versus Vegas. He will have the opportunity to build on those totals this afternoon.

GOLDEN KNIGHTS VITALS: The Golden Knights have played a game on Friday for the first time since January 26. Marc-Andre Fleury was the starter on Friday, which means we could see Robin Lehner in net tonight, the other member of the goaltending monster in Vegas. Lehner’s numbers haven’t reached his career heights so far this season – The goaltender is 2-1-1, with a .885 save percentage and a 2.95 goals against average so far this season, though in 10 career appearances against the Kings, Lehner has a .925 save percentage and a 2.60 goals against average.

Per David Schoen of Las Vegas RJ Sports, the Golden Knights saw their lineup unchanged from Friday’s game in practice on Saturday, though we could see the change in goal.

Pacioretty – Stephenson – Stone
Marchessault – Karlsson – Smith
Tuch – Glass – Roy
Carrier – Nosek – Reaves
Kolesar

Martinez – Theodore
Hague – Whitecloud
Holden – Coghlan

Fleury
Lehner

Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo still has not returned to the group off the COVID-19 Protocol list.

To Pinch, Or Not To Pinch
It’s been talked about at length over the last 36 hours, but we’ll say it one more time.

The Kings gave up far too many odd-man rushes on Friday. Of the goals that Jonathan Quick allowed, two of them were on 2-on-1 rushes, one was on a 3-on-2 rush, and the fourth was a breakaway that Quick saved, before the rebound was put in. The theme was odd-man rushes against, and it happened more frequently than on just the goals.

McLellan talked about the speed that Vegas has, and how poorly timed pinches led to some of those situations.

“Other areas, we pinched and had poor cover,” he said yesterday. “D-men in particular need to know their range. They need to know the speed that’s coming at them and their own set of legs, their range, how far can I push this, how much should I be cheating to keep players to the outside. We can do a better job with all of those things.”

Not all pinches are created equally.

McLellan explained that what hurt the Kings last night was when players pinched in from the point in an attempt to keep a play alive in the offensive zone and were unsuccessful in doing so. It’s those plays where different decisions, or more successful ones, are needed.

“There’s a few different times of pinches,” McLellan explained. “There’s a pinch on the forecheck, where you dump it in and go get it. We didn’t particularly get hurt because of that one, we gave up one 2-on-1 where the forward failed to cover, but the other pinches were on 50-50 pucks that were laying in the top of the slot and they’re trying to come down and keep a play alive. There’s nothing wrong with that, but make it happen. If you’re going to go, it has to happen. If it doesn’t happen, we’re in a world of trouble, because everybody’s anticipating the puck to get deep and go to the net, and that really hurt us last night.”

Shot Through The Cart
Hear from Kings forward and alternate captain Jeff Carter from after yesterday’s practice. Carter talked about losing both of his linemates to COVID-19 Protocol in a span of 24 hours, handling the speed in transition that Vegas offers, and his impression of a couple of younger players who have made strides so far this season for the Kings.

Reigny Day in Vegas
While the Kings lost by a 5-2 margin on Friday, the Ontario Reign lost by the same score on Saturday at Orleans Arena against the Henderson Silver Knights in their season debut yesterday evening.

Defenseman Daniel Brickley and forward Rasmus Kupari scored for Ontario, while forwards Quinton Byfield, Tyler Madden and Blaine Byron tallied assists. For Byfield and Madden, the assists were the first of their professional careers, in their professional debuts. Forward Akil Thomas and Alex Turcotte made their professional debuts as well, while forwards Samuel Fagemo and Arthur Kaliyev, along with defensemen Jacob Moverare and Jack Sadek made their AHL debuts.

The Reign have an extremely young group this season – seven of the nine forwards in the top six are on the first or second year of their entry-level contracts, and of those players, just Rasmus Kupari played an AHL game before tonight. It could take some time for this group to figure things out at the professional level, and patience will be a virtue as the players settle in at the pro level.

The Reign and Silver Knights meet again tomorrow evening, with a 5 PM puck drop. The NHL version is up again today at noon. Game Thread is next!

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