WHO: Los Angeles Kings (9-9-4) @ Edmonton Oilers (16-6-0)
WHAT: NHL REGULAR-SEASON GAME
WHEN: Sunday, December 5 @ 5:00 PM Pacific
WHERE: Rogers Place – Edmonton, AB
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: Bally Sports West – AUDIO – iHeart Radio – TWITTER: @DooleyLAK & @LAKings
TONIGHT’S MATCHUP: The LA Kings are back in action this evening to begin a quick two-game road trip, with the Edmonton Oilers as tonight’s opponent.
HEAD-TO-HEAD: These two teams met four times during the 2019-20 season, with Edmonton posting a 3-1-0 record, including one-goal victories in both games played at Rogers Place. The duo of Anze Kopitar (2-3-5) and Drew Doughty (1-4-5) led the Kings with five points apiece from those games, while Dustin Brown (2-2-4) had four of his own. Defenseman Alex Edler has faced Edmonton more frequently than any other team throughout his career, with the veteran in line for his 72nd career appearance later today.
KINGS VITALS: Coming off of a homestand that featured a lot of close defeats, but just one victory, the Kings are looking to use their trip to Canada as a back on track situation. Sound familiar? The Kings practiced in Southern California yesterday morning, before their travel to Edmonton, and did not hold an on-ice morning skate today, opting for an off-ice workout as a group.
Let’s start in net, where we’ll project Jonathan Quick as tonight’s starter, when looking at the typical rotation between the goaltenders. Unconfirmed at this time, though Quick and Petersen have typically traded starts this season, broken only after being dictated by exceptional performance. Lifetime, Quick is 23-9-5 against the Oilers, with a .924 save percentage and a 2.05 goals-against average, both of which rank fifth all-time for Quick against any one opponent.
Looking at the skaters, the Kings have seven defensemen at their disposal, after Kale Clague was placed on waivers on Friday and subsequently claimed by Montreal yesterday morning. That leaves the team with their usual number of seven. Without a set of line rushes in advance of today, we won’t know for sure, but no changes have been made public from the group that faced Calgary on Thursday.
The forwards are obviously a bit more interesting. The Kings will make at least one change, with Blake Lizotte not able to play due to his placement in the NHL’s COVID Protocol and forward TJ Tynan taking his place for his Kings debut. Tynan was recalled from AHL-Ontario yesterday, in advance of the trip – more on Tynan below. Todd McLellan shared this morning that he expects Jaret Anderson-Dolan, also recalled yesterday, to be the extra forward tonight.
Here’s how the Kings lined up during yesterday’s practice –
Kempe – Kopitar – Brown
Iafallo – Danault – Arvidsson
Andersson – Kupari – Moore
Grundstrom – Tynan – Kaliyev
Anderson – Doughty
Edler – Roy
Bjornfot – Durzi
Quick / Petersen
OILERS VITALS: Edmonton was last in action on Friday, when they dropped a 4-3 decision against the Seattle Kraken. The Oilers had won three consecutive games, and five of their last six, prior to a loss against the expansion side.
With goaltender Mike Smith still on injured reserve, the Oilers have turned to the tandem of Mikko Koskinen and Stuart Skinner between the pipes, with the duo providing solid play behind an offensively gifted team. Koskinen has faced the Kings five times throughout his NHL career. He enters tonight’s action with a 3-1-0 record, a .909 save percentage and a 3.08 goals-against average.
Edmonton could welcome back defenseman Darnell Nurse, who practiced in full with the team yesterday and was activated from injured reserve earlier today. Nurse was placed on IR back on November 19 and has not featured in a game since.
Per Tony Brar of Oilers TV, here’s how tonight’s hosts lined up last time out against Seattle –
Oilers lineup in Seattle as they eye their fourth straight win:
Hyman – McDavid – Yamamoto
RNH – Draisaitl – Puljujarvi
Foegele – McLeod – Kassian
Perlini – Ryan – Sceviour
Russell – Barrie
Lagesson – Bouchard
Niemelainen – Broberg
— Tony Brar (@TonyBrarOTV) December 4, 2021
At a staggering 35.3%, Edmonton has not only the best power-play percentage in the NHL, but if the season ended today, it would rank as the best single-season percentage of all-time, by more than three percentage points over the 1977-78 Montreal Canadiens. Despite ranking towards the middle of the league in power-play opportunities, Edmonton’s 24 tallies on the man advantage are four more than any other team to date.
Containing Connor & Company
We could go in this morning, ask a broad, sweeping question about a game plan to stop Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, but that would likely be fruitless. The answer, really, is that you can’t just game plan to stop those players, because even if you plan it, and you execute it, they can still beat you.
And that’s kind of the point, when it comes to elite players. McDavid and Draisaitl play on separate lines, and both are capable of driving production on their own, and certainly so when they’re together on the man advantage.
“We’re one of 31 other coaching staffs that come in here with the same plan, and obviously it doesn’t always work. Let’s face it, when you get those two individuals playing at a high level, which they have been for the full season, you need a bounce here or there, you need a real good save, you need to stay out of the penalty box. Those are all things that are sometimes out of your control. That alone is something that we’re, as other teams are, counting on to work in our favor.”
As noted above, the task gets even more challenging when you go to the power play, because McDavid and Draisaitl play together. Draisaitl leads the league in power-play goals, while McDavid leads the league in power-play assists, followed closely behind by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
Mentioning Nugent-Hopkins is important too, because while the former two garner most of the attention, and rightfully so, the Oilers have other weapons offensively as well. Nugent-Hopkins is a point-per-game this season and is tied for fifth in the NHL in assists this season, with just two players who aren’t his teammates in front of him.
Free-agent acquisition Zach Hyman has 11 goals from 22 games played this season. Jesse Puljujarvi comes in just shy of a point-per-game with 18 points (7-11-18) from 22 games played this season. Defensemen Evan Bouchard, Tyson Barrie and Darnell Nurse are all over a half-point-per-game from the blueline. The offensive weapons run deep, complicating the assignment even further.
It also starts and ends with the duo of McDavid and Draisaitl, however. the Kings will do their best to play smart and prevent what’s preventable whenever possible.
“When you’re on the ice, hope can really kill you and what I mean by that is blindly slinging pucks into the middle of the rink, especially in the offensive zone, is something they can pick off and go the other way,” McLellan added. “It gets harder and harder not to do that if you’re down 1 or 2 goals, and that’s when the game gets away on you. You don’t stop those guys, you try and minimalize the damage that they do, that’s just the way it is. We’ll do our best, we need to take advantage of other situations if they arise and go from there.”
Centers of Attention
McLellan confirmed this morning that forward TJ Tynan would check into the lineup this evening for his LA Kings debut.
“He’s going in for an undersized player, so we’re not overly concerned about that,” McLellan said, of Tynan. “He’s a different player than [Lizotte], he has the same tenacity, maybe not as much physicality as Lizzo, potentially more offense. He’s played in the National League before, he’s not a 19 or 20 year old, we’re just going to play him and he’ll be fine. I’m not worried about Tynan at all tonight, I think he’ll have a real, good, effective game.”
Tynan, who has 19 NHL games to his name entering this season, including 16 with the Colorado Avalanche during the 2019-20 campaign, centered a line with Arthur Kaliyev and Carl Grundstrom during yesterday’s practice.
Prior to his recall, the Notre Dame alum has been the number-one center with the AHL’s Ontario Reign for the majority of the season. Partnering well with winger Martn Frk, Tynan is well over a point-per-game this season, with 17 points from 12 games played. Before he was recalled by the Kings earlier in the season, he led the AHL in assists and ranked second in points, slowing from his pace only due to a stint with the big club.
While expecting that level of production to translate, point-for-point, to the NHL level might be a stretch, Tynan brings an element of speed to the Kings, along with offensive abilities, with the organization it could translate into an effective NHL player.
“I think TJ is fast and quick,” McLellan said, of Tynan’s game. “A lot of players are fast, some players are quick, very few are both, and I think TJ is both. Let’s face it, if he was 20 pounds heavier and six inches taller, he’s a full-time NHL player in all likelihood. He’s been close in the past with other teams, he’s been a dominant American League player. I hope he can breakthrough and find a full-time job here.”
QB to ONT
Lastly, McLellan let us know that forward Quinton Byfield has been assigned to the AHL’s Ontario Reign as of this morning.
Byfield has been out of action since he suffered a fractured ankle during the preseason, and has worked his way back to skating on his own, to joining the group in a non-contact jersey to a full participant in practice over the last few days.
Now, Byfield will get the chance to return to game action at the AHL level, at his own pace, before looking at next steps.
“It’s his timetable, not ours,” McLellan said, when asked about the potential timetable of the assignment. “He’s got to get his game in order, get playing, and we’re confident that he can do that quickly, but we’re not going to put him in a situation that’s unfair to him or his teammates. He didn’t play a full season last year, because of COVID, and this year, he’s starting as if the COVID issue existed again. He needs to get his game going and he’s very capable of it. We expect him to play well down there and have a lot of details in his game, get his conditioning and timing back and then we’ll see what happens.”
Kings and Oilers, tonight at 5 PM Pacific!