WHAT: NHL REGULAR SEASON GAME
WHEN: Thursday, February 11 @ 7:00 PM Pacific
WHERE: STAPLES Center – Los Angeles, CA
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: Fox Sports West – AUDIO – iHeart Radio – TWITTER: @DooleyLAK
TONIGHT’S MATCHUP: The LA Kings and San Jose Sharks conclude a two-game set at STAPLES Center in tonight’s rematch. The Kings earned a point, but the Sharks took Game 1 by a 4-3 final in a shootout in Game 1 on Tuesday evening.
HEAD-TO-HEAD: For the fifth time in the last eight head-to-head matchups, Tuesday’s game went past the scheduled 60 minutes. Forward Dustin Brown led all skaters with three points (2-1-3), while Alex Iafallo collected two assists in the loss. Iafallo now has ten points (1-9-10) from his last eight games against San Jose, while Adrian Kempe has four points (1-3-4) from his last four games played, extended with an assist two days ago. With a helper on Tuesday, forward Patrick Marleau now has five points (2-3-5) from his last four games played against the Kings, while forward Logan Couture tallied two points (1-1-2), plus the shootout game-winner, in the Sharks victory.
KINGS VITALS: The Kings hit the ice this morning for an optional morning skate today, with all skaters, except for Dustin Brown, on the ice. Drew Doughty did skate, as did defenseman Matt Roy, in a regular, black jersey.
In the third period of Tuesday’s game, the Kings switched into the following line combinations –
Iafallo – Kopitar – Brown
Kempe – Vilardi – Carter
Grundstrom – Anderson-Dolan – Moore
Andersson – Amadio – Wagner
Anderson – Doughty
MacDermid – Clague
Maatta – Strand
We could see similar combinations tonight, though forward Matt Luff is an option to return to the lineup as well, as is Tobias Bjornfot on the backend. McLellan reiterated that Bjornfot will get a game soon, but did not commit to whether or not that night would be tonight. Martin Frk remains injured, and is not available for the Kings tonight. All signs point to Doughty going tonight, more on that below.
McLellan also mentioned after Tuesday’s game that the team will need both goaltenders going, considering the upcoming, condensed schedule. Cal Petersen, however, was the first goaltender off, and it could mark the third straight start for a netminder who has done little to relinquish the crease over his past set of appearances.
Though he has just a 1-4-1 record, Petersen has posted a .925 save percentage and a 2.56 goals against average from seven appearances this season. The Waterloo, IA native has faced double-digit, high-danger chances against in three of his last four starts, with the lone outlier being nine. The shot volume has been high, and the quality of the chances has matched it, but Petersen has nonetheless remained in the NHL’s Top-10 in several goaltending categories amongst qualified goaltenders, including in save percentage.
SHARKS VITALS: This evening’s contest caps off a stretch of 12 consecutive road games to open the season for San Jose. The Sharks have performed admirably, at 5-5-1, and will have the opportunity to cap the trip at a minimum of .500 with a point or more tonight.
Martin Jones is expected to get the start tonight in goal for the second straight game. Though his statistics have not matched those of teammate Devin Dubnyk in terms of save percentage, Jones has won all five San Jose games, including Tuesday’s shootout victory at STAPLES Center. Jones has also performed well throughout his career against his former team, with a 14-4-3 record all-time versus Los Angeles, with a 2.12 goals against average and a .928 save percentage.
The Sharks are also expected to make one additional roster move, with forward John Leonard checking in for Rudolph Balcers, per Curtis Pashelka of the Bay Area News Group.
Here’s how the Sharks are expected to line up tonight at STAPLES Center –
Kane – Couture – Lebanc
Donato – Hertl – Meier
Nieto – Gambrell – Sorensen
Gregor – Marleau – Leonard
Ferraro – Burns
Simek – Karlsson
Knyzhov – Vlasic
No Dought About It
Defenseman Drew Doughty appears to be ready to go tonight.
Doughty left Tuesday’s game with an injury, after he blocked a shot in the third period, did not return, did not practice with the team yesterday morning. He did, however, attend morning skate today, a good sign that he could return to the team tonight.
In many instances this season, Doughty has not skated during an optional morning skate, so his presence today leans even more towards him being in the lineup. McLellan said yesterday that he considered Doughty’s day off to be a “maintenance day” more than anything, and that he expected to see Doughty in the lineup in the rematch against San Jose.
“With Drew, for me, it’s a maintenance day,” McLellan said yesterday. “He doesn’t miss many games, and I think that I’m going to have his number up on the board tomorrow, and he’s going to be ready to play. It’s probably what I expected, and I’m excited about getting him back.”
If Doughty is able to go, then the Kings will retain their number one defenseman.
From simply just showing up, and playing the amount that he does, there’s not a player in the league, let alone within the organization, that has matched Doughty’s totals.
The 31-year-old is the NHL’s only defensemen who averages more than 20 minutes a night at even strength, more than four minutes on the power play and more than two minutes shorthanded. In terms of impact, the Kings control the puck more with Doughty on the ice, even more so in terms of creating high-danger scoring chances.
“Obviously, [Doughty] plays a lot of minutes for us, so when he goes down, it’s a lot of minutes that we have to cover and make up for,” defenseman Mikey Anderson said. “I thought the group did a good job [on Tuesday], we had a lot of communication towards the end there, to try and close it out. He’s a great player, he takes a lot of minutes for us, and we had to try to fill that. I thought the other guys, we all did a good job there at the end.”
One player who stepped into a larger role in Doughty’s absence was Kale Clague. Clague logged an NHL career-high 23:12 on Tuesday, and went just about every other shift from the time that Doughty went down until the end of the game.
The rookie defenseman played 8:52 in the third period alone, most on the team, and 2:46 in overtime, also a Kings high.
Clague knows he’s not a direct replacement for Doughty – no one in the organization is – but he was happy to do his best to help fill some of those minutes in an effort that the Kings were almost able to hang on to.
“[Drew]’s our top d-man, so when you see him go down, it’s obviously not a good sign. He’s ready to go, he’s feeling good now, but in that moment, you just want to make the most of the opportunity and play as hard as you can to try to win. I thought all five [defensemen] did a pretty good job, and it’s too bad we couldn’t have closed it out, but those are opportunities that certainly us young guys will take. We’ll be better for it down the road.”
McLellan pointed to Austin Strand as well as a player who grew into the role he was presented. McLellan has praised Strand’s game on a couple of occasions now, as the defenseman continues to show poise on the blueline, despite just three games under his belt. Both Strand and Clague are expected to remain in the lineup tonight against the Sharks.
Carl….Good To See You!
Yesterday, we talked with Jaret Anderson-Dolan and Trevor Moore about the hard-working nature, and success, of their line in three games together.
This morning, we spoke with the third member of that unit, Carl Grundstrom. Grundstrom gave his take on his even-strength line, joining the Kings second power-play unit, which veteran player has “taken him under his wing” and more!
It has not been a secret that the Kings are in search of better starts to their games.
The team has conceded the first goal in 10 of 12 games so far this season, and with a -13 goal differential in the first period (6 scored, 19 conceded), the team knows that it needs to be better starting games, and sustaining that start throughout the first period.
We’ll take a look at the team’s starts to games, with quotes from McLellan and several players, coming up a bit later on LAKI!