WHO: Los Angeles Kings (3-2) vs. Edmonton Oilers (2-3)
WHAT: 2022 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS – Round 1, Game 6
WHEN: Thursday, May 12 @ 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 Kings are back home with an opportunity to advance to the second round of the postseason. With a 3-2 series lead, LA is one win away from its first series victory since 2014, with tonight marking the first elimination game of the series.
HEAD-TO-HEAD: Each Kings win has featured a three-point effort, with Adrian Kempe (2-1-3) joining the club in Game 5. Kempe also scored the overtime game-winner, the third-fastest in LA Kings history. Kempe (2-3-5) is now tied with Phillip Danault (3-2-5) and Trevor Moore (2-3-5) for the series lead in scoring amongst Kings players.
KINGS VITALS: Win and you’re through. Simple situation tonight for the LA Kings, who have two opportunities to advance to the second round of the playoffs, the first of which comes this evening on home ice.
Jonathan Quick was not on the ice for morning skate, which has been his process thus far throughout the postseason. Quick’s win on Tuesday was his 25th career playoff victory on the road, tying Tom Barrasso for the most by an American-born goaltender. In the series to date, Quick is 3-2 with a .887 save percentage, a 3.80 goals-against average and one shutout.
The Kings did not hold a formal practice yesterday, as the team had a morning flight home from Edmonton. The full group was back on the ice earlier today for morning skate, giving us a potential glimpse into a Game 6 lineup for this evening.
Just one change was made in advance of Game 5, as forward Andreas Athanasiou checked back into the lineup in place of forward Gabe Vilardi. While not necessarily an expected change, it was a change that was impactful, with Athanasiou scoring the team’s third goal in a 5-4 overtime victory. The Kings have made changes in all but Game 2 of this series, with Todd McLellan and his staff pushing the right buttons so far, getting four goals in total from players entering the lineup after not playing the game prior.
McLellan said this morning the team would know closer to game time if any lineup changes would be made. With that in mind, the lineup from how Game 5 ended is listed below, with the group lining up that same way this morning –
Iafallo – Kopitar – Kempe
Grundstrom – Danault – Moore
Athanasiou – Lizotte – Brown
Lemieux – Kupari – Kaliyev
Anderson – Roy
Edler – Stecher
Maatta – Durzi
For those looking for daily Viktor Arvidsson updates, Todd McLellan ruled the forward out for the series earlier today. Arvidsson has not skated in nearly two weeks, with McLellan expressing that “moving forward, we’ll worry about that if we need to” regarding any additional games should the Kings progress.
OILERS VITALS: The Oilers enter tonight’s game facing elimination for the first time in the 2022 postseason. Edmonton has faced elimination four times over its last three playoff runs, posting a 1-3 record in that span.
There’s no notion of a goaltending change from an Edmonton point of view heading into Game 6, with Mike Smith expected to make his sixth start of the series. Smith has faced elimination four times during his postseason career, posting a 1-3 record, with a .920 save percentage in those games with one shutout that came in Los Angeles back in 2012.
Per Daniel Nugent-Bowman of The Athletic here’s how the Oilers aligned this morning –
Oilers lines and pairings at morning skate ahead of Game 6 at LAK:
— Daniel Nugent-Bowman (@DNBsports) May 12, 2022
A different look for the Oilers up front, with McDavid and Draisaitl playing together on a line as they did down the stretch in Game 5. The Oilers made one personnel change on Tuesday, as Derek Ryan returned from injury in place of Derrick Brassard, with that adjustment holding true in the above pairings.
They’ll be required to make at least one additional change for Game 6, with defenseman Darnell Nurse suspended for headbutting Kings forward Phillip Danault in Game 5. The Oilers have defensemen Kris Russell and Phillip Broberg available on the backend, with Russell appearing to have the first crack from today’s reporting.
Raising The Level
Todd McLellan made the point clear that the Kings simply replicating their performances in Games 4 and 5 would not be enough to get the job done tonight in Game 6.
“We’re well aware that reproduction of our previous two games, 4 and 5, won’t be good enough,” Todd McLellan said this morning. “We’ll be pushing the players and they’ll be pushing each other to produce at a higher level in all situations. If we do that, we’ll give ourselves an opportunity.”
The Kings did a lot of good things in those games and they got the results they needed from them. In a long series, however, it’s about improving as the seven games progress and getting better on a night-to-night basis. In McLellan’s mind, the team that does that is the team that will eventually win the series and at 3-2, things are far from decided.
In Game 5 in Edmonton, it was the Kings taking that step forward. They’ll need to take another one in order to find success this evening.
Speaking with forward Alex Iafallo and defenseman Alex Edler this morning, both spoke about what raising the level means in their words. For the former, it starts with aggression, while for the latter, it’s about sticking to the Kings brand of hockey, and executing it at a higher level.
Iafallo – Staying aggressive, being more aggressive forechecking wise and staying on top of pucks. In every area of the game, being better. I think that special teams is an area where we’ve got to get better and go from there.
Edler – We’ve just got to be ready to execute our game. Be sharp, be alert every time we step on the ice, always know who is out there against you. We have to make sure that we play our game and that our intensity level is up.
All keys to tonight’s game, with the opportunity to clinch the series on home ice in front of the Kings.
For the first time in this series, it’s an elimination game for one team and that game falls with the Kings leading 3-2.
From an Edmonton point of view, they’re without one of their leaders and best players in defenseman Darnell Nurse, their time-on-ice leader on the backend and number-one defenseman, though they still have a more than formidable group at their disposal. The Kings are expecting Edmonton’s best tonight and know they’ve got to play their own game well to counter it.
“We know we’re going to get their best tonight,” Edler said this morning. “They’re going to be desperate, they’re going to do everything they can, so we have to be ready for that. We have to play our game and execute our game.”
That’s what it’s always come down to from a Kings point of view. Playing their game and at this point, there aren’t a ton of aces in the hole to be played by either coaching staff.
Teams can adjust line combinations, as both appear to be doing at least slightly tonight and teams can tinker here and there, but as McLellan has said for most of this season, the Kings know who they are at this point in the season and by Game 6, they know who their opponent is as well. Now, it’s about which group goes out and executes best in an elimination situation.
“It’s a bit of a chess match earlier in the series, but then you use up all of your chess moves and there aren’t a lot of surprises,” McLellan said. “If we can get the best out of our group and get more out of our group, we’ll give ourselves that opportunity.”
With that in mind, the stakes are greater and the moment is larger in Game 6.
For the Kings, it’s an opportunity to close out the series at home, earning that right with their wins in Games 4 and 5. It’s an opportunity to not have to face an elimination game themselves on away ice. For the Oilers, it’s their season on the line here, a game in which they need to win in order to earn another one.
A situation the Kings will be amped up for, but one they know they need to channel the right way, especially on home ice.
“We just stick together,” Iafallo said this morning. “It’s what we’ve been talking about this whole series, sticking together and obviously you’re going to get pumped up before the game, but you have to channel it the right way, take every shift like it’s your last. We have to make sure we have more positives than mistakes tonight and we’ll be fine.”
What would you know about PRESSURE?
Ray Finkel knows. The Kings and Oilers do too, even if they don’t necessarily agree on how it falls. Edmonton Head Coach Jay Woodcroft said that all the pressure is on the Kings to close out the series at home, even though they’re the team with two opportunities at a series win, as opposed to one.
Todd McLellan is perhaps better suited than most to address it. He’s lived a playoff run as the Head Coach of the Edmonton Oilers and he’s now living a playoff run as the Head Coach of the Los Angeles Kings. He knows the differences in pressure for both teams, detailed below.
“I was asked earlier in the series about pressure, and whether it’s on us or on them. There’s internal pressure on us. We have spoken about this before and we’re putting the internal pressure on ourselves. Maybe I’m the only one who can speak to this, because I’ve lived their bench and now I’m living our bench, it’s completely different. Our pressure is what we put on ourselves, their pressure is enormous, throughout Oil Country, throughout Canada, the superstars, the media pressure, where they’ve been and what they want to do. A lot of people who have followed this series have used the term house money and we don’t see it that way, but it also creates a different set of pressure points for each organization, I believe.”
Different for sure, but vast for both. Externally, the pressure is much higher and only ramping up on the Oilers. For the Kings, it’s the pressure they put on themselves as an organization to be here to do some damage, as Phillip Danault phrased it. We’ll see how that pressure is answered by both sides later on this evening.
Kings and Oilers, tonight at 7 PM, with a clinching opportunity on the line this evening for the hosts. As always, leave early if you’re coming out, tune in at your regularly scheduled time if not!