Round 1, Game 3 Preview – Morning Skate Notes + Bouncing Back, Special Teams, Playing at Home

WHO: Los Angeles Kings (1-1) vs. Edmonton Oilers (1-1)
WHAT: 2022 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS – Round 1, Game 3
WHEN: Friday, May 6 @ 7:00 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 series has shifted to Los Angeles, Insiders! Games 3 and 4 will be on home ice for the Kings, beginning this evening with the first playoff game in LA since 2018.

HEAD-TO-HEAD: With a shutout in Game 2, the Kings were unable to build upon their Game 1 totals. The line of Trevor Moore, Phillip Danault and Alex Iafallo combined for seven points in Game 1, along with a combined +8 rating. Moore leads the Kings against Edmonton this season in both playoff points with three (1-2-3) and regular-season points with four (2-2-4).

KINGS VITALS: Tonight marks the return of playoff hockey to Downtown Los Angeles for the first time since 2018. Just five of the team’s 20 skaters expected to dress tonight played the last time the Kings had a home playoff game, with goaltender Jonathan Quick and forwards Dustin Brown, Alex Iafallo, Adrian Kempe and Anze Kopitar also in the lineup.

Jonathan Quick is tonight’s projected starter in Game 3, with the veteran expected to make his 87th consecutive postseason start. Quick’s career playoff splits are better on the road, but the veteran still brings with him a 23-18 record in Los Angeles, with a .911 save percentage and a 2.35 goals-against average in 41 career postseason games played on home ice.

The Kings did not hold a formal practice yesterday, as they traveled home from Edmonton during the day. The team was back on the ice this morning for a full-team skate, in advance of Game 3 this evening.

Coming off of a 6-0 defeat in Game 2, the Kings could be in line to make a personnel adjustment for Game 3 this evening. Morning skate today gives us the sense that Rasmus Kupari could be in for Quinton Byfield, though that move was not confirmed by Head Coach Todd McLellan.

“If he is in, but if I win the lottery, I won’t be doing this anymore, so there’s a lot of ifs,” Todd McLellan said this morning. “If 89 goes in, he skates well, he’s aggressive, he’s a good penalty killer, he can take right-handed faceoffs. You guys have seen him play, you know what he can do.”

The daily Viktor Arvidsson update is what it’s been in Edmonton – unavailable. Arvidsson did not skate this morning and will not be an option for the Kings this evening in Game 3. His injury can now be deemed as “lower-body” as of this morning’s availability.

For reference, here’s how the team took line rushes, though as McLellan noted above, nothing is confirmed.

Athanasiou – Kopitar – Kempe
Iafallo – Danault – Moore
Grundstrom – Lizotte – Brown
Lemieux – Kupari – Kaliyev

Edler – Roy
Anderson – Durzi
Maatta – Spence

Quick
Petersen

OILERS VITALS: Edmonton heads to Los Angeles this evening for a playoff game for the first time since the Kings played at not even at STAPLES Center, but the Great Western Forum. The last time these two teams met in the postseason in California was April 26, 1992, a 5-2 Edmonton victory in Inglewood.

Coming off the shutout in Game 3, goaltender Mike Smith is expected to make his third start of the series tonight at Crypto.com Arena. Smith has played two career playoff games in Los Angeles, a 2-1 loss and a 2-0 victory with Arizona back in 2012. Smith has allowed just two goals on 64 shots on goal in those games and brings with him a 5-7 record lifetime in away postseason contests.

Per Tony Brar of Oilers TV, the Oilers are not expected to make any changes today, rolling with the same group that played in their Game 2 victory –

The Oilers made an adjustment between Games 1 and 2, switching from an 11-7 alignment to a 12-6 alignment, with forward Josh Archibald checking in for defenseman Kris Russell. Tonight’s visitors are set to run with the same group this evening in Los Angeles.

Notes –

Bouncing Back & Leadership Role
The Kings have done a great job this season of bouncing back off of losses.

As I believe I mentioned yesterday, since December 1 the Kings have lost consecutive games just five times, losing no more than three straight in that span. That’s something they’ve done a great job of this season, responding and bouncing back and finding a way to not let losses accumulate and add up.

“Leaders and followers, you need both,” Todd McLellan said this morning. “Leaders get a lot of credit for reestablishing what’s required, the tone and the urgency and the followers have followed fairly well. It’s a combination of everybody getting it and making the fix that’s necessary. We have done a good job of that throughout the season, the season is still going and we’ll need it.”

McLellan’s message is something that those on the team have seen and experienced firsthand.

The Kings have several players who have been through a playoff series and understand the importance of treating each game as its own entity. The Kings have embraced that approach pretty well all season long, but when you get into a best-of-seven series and lose a game by six goals, the importance is placed under a much larger spotlight.

Speaking with forward Trevor Moore today, it’s something that the leaders in the room have done a good job of helping to establish.

“It’s huge, those older guys have done it for a long time and they know that you dwell on these kinds of things, but you have to learn from the mistakes for sure,” Moore said. “I think that’s been the message.”

Defenseman Olli Maatta – a two-time Stanley Cup champion – placed the team’s success in those situations down to accountability.

He said it starts from the top-down, with the coaching staff holding even themselves accountable when they make a mistake, which creates a culture of accountability in the room for the players. If your leaders are holding themselves accountable, it’s a trickle-down throughout the entire group.

“As we all know, we’ve just got to be better, there’s an accountability here, everybody takes care of their own game,” Maatta said. “I think that starts with the coaching staff. They keep us accountable and they keep themselves accountable and that shows that everybody has to do their job.”

Maatta expanded on the notion of Game 2 being just a game lost, not a 6-0 loss. It’s a 1-1 series, with all focus on Game 3.

Special Teams Improvements
So, what areas do the Kings need to improve upon in order to bounce back? For starters, they currently trail the special teams battle in the series 5-0 through the first six periods.

Edmonton scored two power-play goals in both games, in addition to a shorthanded goal in Game 2, while the Kings have been shutout on eight power-play opportunities in that span. We know that special teams haven’t been the driving force this season, but there is still a need to get more from those units. Speaking with Trevor Moore, who plays on both units, he believes the pieces are in the room to make those changes and improve.

“Overall we know that both sides of the special teams have to be better,” Moore said. “I’m fully confident that it will be better, I think we’re too good of a team to have those kinds of numbers, especially on the kill. I think we’ll see improvements.”

On the PP – McLellan spoke about that unit after Game 2, noting that there’s no magic formula the team can generate to magically change it. It’s about execution and the Kings know they can’t be minus one in that department all series long.

On the PK – There are two sides of the coin. What happens while shorthanded and what happens to become shorthanded. While the goals allowed are concerning, it’s also about how frequently, and when, the Kings are putting Edmonton on the man advantage that is also concerning.

“I think that we gave them way too many opportunities over the last two games,” Olli Maatta said. “We want to play hard and aggressive, check hard, but at the same time be disciplined, we don’t want to give their power play a chance to make a difference.”

McLellan lamented the offensive-zone penalties in particular, with the Kings taking two in the second period of Game 2. Regardless of what your feel is on those calls, there’s still the notion of putting yourself in the position to take that penalty and the Kings have done that seven times in two games.

Any team that squares off against Edmonton knows it needs to stay out of the box. McLellan described the actual power-play goals against this morning, indicating that his PK unit has done certain things well, with other areas needing improvement.

“The goals that they’ve scored, there was a broken play off a broken stick, one off a faceoff, they had a really good one with Leon the other night and I think one to make it 6-0 with about [nine] minutes left,” he said. “There are some things that I believe we’re doing well when penalty killing and some areas we can improve on.”

Certainly a huge storyline in this series, with the Kings needing to get contributions on special teams and something to watch for tonight in LA.

Home Town Crowd
“When we talk about home ice in the playoffs, some of the veterans were reminiscing about the arena and what it meant to them during their runs, how that sixth man in the stands, with their excitement and their energy, can help. I believe we will get a nice boost from a really passionate fanbase.”

Todd McLellan spoke this morning about the potential impact of the series switching from Edmonton to Los Angeles. We covered that a bit earlier today (Found HERE), but hearing it the morning of the game spoke to the true excitement and energy levels that the Kings have in returning home and playing a home playoff game in Los Angeles.

As noted above, only five of the 20 players expected to dress tonight have played a home playoff game here, even if others have experienced this building on the road or in the stands. It’s a different beast and the excitement level is high.

Maatta – Obviously the crowd is a big factor, I’ve never played a playoff game here, but I’ve heard how it’s great. All of the stories I’ve heard have just made me want to play in the playoffs here, how awesome the atmosphere is. I just can’t wait.

Moore – We’re really excited. It was fun playing in Edmonton, hearing all of their fans and you can feel the momentum swings. We’re excited that in our favor tonight.

For those attending, the team is encouraging fans to get there early, come out and join the black parade. For those not, it’s a 7 PM puck drop on Bally Sports So-Cal locally and on TBS nationally. A swing game here in Game 3! Talk soon.

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