1/8 Preview – Petersen in net, Maatta returns, Durzi/Doughty in + Goalie Returns & Faceoff Success

WHO: Los Angeles Kings (16-13-5) vs. Detroit Red Wings (16-15-3)
WHAT: NHL REGULAR-SEASON GAME
WHEN: Saturday, January 8 @ 7:30 PM Pacific
WHERE: Crypto.com Arena – Los Angeles, CA
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: Bally Sports West – AUDIO – iHeart Radio – TWITTER: @DooleyLAK & @LAKings

TONIGHT’S MATCHUP: The Kings are on the backstretch of their current, seven-game homestand, as the Detroit Red Wings come to town for their lone visit of the season. LA is 2-2-0 from the four games played to date.

HEAD-TO-HEAD: The Kings and Red Wings last met in 2019, when the Kings swept the season series. Overall, the Kings have won seven of the last 10 meetings against Detroit, as well as seven of the last 10 games played in Los Angeles, including three straight and five of the last six. Forward Anze Kopitar has 44 points (18-26-44) from 39 career games played versus the Red Wings, while Michigan native Matt Roy has two assists from two head-to-head matchups.

KINGS VITALS: The Kings held an optional morning skate in advance of tonight’s game, which is par for the course with how the team has operated throughout the middle of their season.

Cal Petersen is tonight’s expected starter for the Kings, in line to make his first career appearance against the Red Wings. Petersen hasn’t started since December 6 in Vancouver, and tonight marks his first game played back off of COVID Protocol, after he served as the backup in each of the last three. On the season, Petersen is 5-5-1 with a .893 save percentage and a 3.10 goals-against average.

As it stands now, the Kings are slated to make just one lineup change this evening, with defenseman Olli Maatta expected to return and defenseman Jacob Moverare expected to check out. The Kings currently have 12 forwards on the active roster, with the expectation that we’ll see them line up similarly to how they did against Nashville on Thursday. With that in mind, here’s how the Kings are projected to line up this evening –

Kempe – Kopitar – Frk
Moore – Danault – Arvidsson
Andersson – Kupari – Brown
Lemieux – Lizotte – Kaliyev

Anderson – Doughty
Maatta – Roy
Bjornfot – Durzi

Petersen
Quick

As noted yesterday, no expected issues regarding Drew Doughty and Sean Durzi, confirmed by Todd McLellan this morning. Both defensemen missed yesterday’s practice, but both are expected at full go this evening versus the Red Wings. The Kings swapped forwards Austin Wagner and Samuel Fagemo today, with Wagner the extra up front heading into tonight’s action.

RED WINGS VITALS: The Red Wings are back in action this evening, after the team saw its previously scheduled game against Anaheim cancelled due to COVID issues on the Ducks end.

No update yet on a potential goaltender for the Red Wings. If usual starter Alex Nedeljkovic gets the nod between the pipes, it would be his first career start versus the Kings. Nedeljkovic is 10-8-3 this season with a .914 save percentage and a 2.85 goals-against average. If Thomas Greiss goes, it would be his 11th career appearance versus the Kings. Greiss is 5-3-0 all-time against LA, with a .917 save percentage and a 2.29 goals-against average.

Per Max Bultman of The Athletic, here’s how the Red Wings lined up at the forward position during yesterday’s practice in El Segundo –

And pairs from last game –

Dekeyser – Seider
Leddy – Hronek
Staal – Lindstrom

Notes –

Go See Cal
For the first time in a while, it won’t be number 32 atop the list of starters tonight for the LA Kings.

Cal Petersen is set to return to action this evening, after a span of 34 days without a start, much of which has fallen outside of this control. Petersen was initially set to play the weekend of December 18/19, with the Kings scheduled for back-to-back games in Carolina and Washington, but the Iowa native was added into COVID Protocol in Raleigh on the morning of 12/18. Petersen missed three games due to COVID Protocol, with the NHL’s Holiday Break keeping him off the ice for 10 days in total.

At the outset of the break, Jonathan Quick earned the next three starts as the Kings ramped up Petersen’s workload during practice, with an eye on tonight’s game versus Detroit as the time to work him back in. Now, with all of that behind him, Petersen is primed to return this evening.

“COVID and Christmas took out a lot of days for us, so quite frankly it hasn’t been that difficult,” McLellan said, of finding the time to work Petersen back in. “The one thing that Cal Petersen is not responsible for is the level of play of Jonathan Quick, he can’t affect that. I know he’s really happy for Jonathan, but the fact that Quickie has played quite well and has good numbers is not Cal’s responsibility. Cal can only worry about Cal. Quickie deserved the right to make a run, he was playing well enough and tonight’s it’s Cal’s turn.”

Throughout the process of getting back into it, Petersen has had a different road back then say Drew Doughty on the blue line or Phillip Danault at the center position. Those players could come back on essentially no practice time and work their way back in, even if game one wasn’t at their highest, peak performance.

It’s harder to do that with a goaltender because a night when a goalie isn’t at his best could be disastrous for the entire team. Therefore, with Petersen, more caution was used. Having Quick at the top of his game certainly made for a process that did not need to be rushed and now, all those days later, Petersen is ready to roll.

“A goalie’s mental makeup is a little different than a [skater], their prep is a little bit different, their practices are a little bit different, their relationship with a goalie coach is a little bit different,” McLellan added. “It’s a different animal. Cal will be just fine, he’s got all the tools, he’s got all the skill he needs to play. He’ll be ready.”

Hot In The Dot
Entering tonight’s game, the Kings are one of the NHL’s best in the faceoff circle. Sitting at just shy of 54 percent as a team, the Kings rank fifth in the NHL in faceoffs this season, led by the trio of Anze Kopitar, Phillip Danault and Blake Lizotte.

All three centermen are at 54 percent or higher this season, led by Kopitar at 57.5 percent, and Danault (55.7) and Lizotte (54.0) close behind. The Kings certainly have that luxury going for them right now.

“It’s been really good, and those three all play in significant special-teams situations,” McLellan said. “Obviously, Kopi and Danault, both power play and penalty kill, and Lizzo is becoming a really good penalty killer. When you can start with the puck more often than not, 5-on-5 or in those [special teams] spots, it gives you a better chance at success. We’re happy about that, they’re going to have to work hard to keep those numbers.”

Kopitar has always been the ace in the dot and adding Danault into the mix has given the Kings another, elite option in the faceoff circle. Lizotte has worked hard to improve in that area as well, yet another area of the game he contributes in. The St. Cloud St. product has improved from 50.2 percent as a rookie, to 50.9 percent last season to his current rate at 54, though with much of the season remaining.

Speaking with Danault this morning, he takes a lot of pride in his faceoffs, as does the group of centers the Kings have at their disposal.

“Absolutely, I think that’s one of the reasons we’re there is faceoffs, we all want to get better every game,” he said. “We have a lot of pride in it. If you win a draw, you can spend 15, 20 seconds right away with the puck and it can make a huge difference in a tight game. You need that in the playoffs also. Puck possession is a really important thing.”

Danault noted that Yanic Perreault, former Kings center, was someone who worked with him on his draws back when he was a prospect with the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs. Perreault was the “faceoffs coach” with the Chicago organization at the time, as Danault phrased it, and is someone who helped him a lot.

“Yanic was a very hard competitor, who was very hard on the draws [as a player],” Danault said. “He gave me a couple of tips and obviously you’re adjusting over the years too, it changes every year. You get to know the opponents a bit too and he helped me quite a bit.”

In NHL history, Perreault is the only player who has taken 1000 or more draws to have a career rate of over 60 percent, per Quant Hockey. Not a bad mentor……and the results are speaking for themselves.

Kings and Red Wings, coming up tonight at 7:30 PM with the chrome domes back in action!

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