1/19 Preview – Fagemo In, Vilardi Out + More on 68’s Recall, Defending Dallas, 7 in 7

WHO: Los Angeles Kings (25-15-6) vs. Dallas Stars (26-13-7)
WHAT: NHL REGULAR SEASON GAME
WHEN: Thursday, January 19 @ 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 will conclude a spread out, four-game homestand this evening as they host the Dallas Stars for the second time this month.

HEAD-TO-HEAD: The Kings and Stars have split the season series to date, with each team winning thus far on home ice. Forward Kevin Fiala leads the Kings with three points (1-2-3) from two games versus Dallas this season, while defenseman Drew Doughty has a pair of assists (0-2-2). Tonight’s game will conclude the season series between the two squads.

KINGS VITALS: Following two consecutive practice days, the Kings held an optional morning skate today at Toyota Sports Performance Center, with just a handful of skaters on the ice.

Goaltender Pheonix Copley was the first goaltender off this morning for the Kings, indicating that he will get the nod between the pipes this evening. Copley has faced Dallas twice in his NHL career, including the victory back on January 3. The Alaskan brings a record of 1-0-1, with a .932 save percentage and a 1.94 goals-against average.

Per Todd McLellan, we won’t know tonight’s lines until warmups tonight. It all starts with forward Gabe Vilardi, who is currently day-to-day and will not play tonight versus the Stars. Recently recalled forward Samuel Fagemo will check in tonight, for what will be his fourth game of the season. With Fagemo slotting in and Vilardi slotting out, McLellan indicated there could be additional changes beyond just a one-for-one swap, but we’ll have to see how the group shakes out come warmups.

“There will be some line juggling, there’s no doubt about that. We’ll have to look at how we want to play the opposition as much as how we want to play our group. There will be some movement with our lines.”

For reference, here’s how the Kings lined up last time out against the Devils.

More on Fagemo and his recall below.

STARS VITALS: Dallas concludes a three-game roadtrip this evening, coming as the final game of both a back-to-back and a three-in-four set. The Stars lost yesterday in San Jose by a 5-3 margin, after they defeated Vegas on Monday.

With starting goaltender Jake Oettinger getting the nod yesterday evening against the Sharks, assume that we’ll see former Ontario Reign netminder Scott Wedgewood get the start this evening. All-time versus the Kings, Wedgewood is 2-2-0, with a .898 save percentage and a 3.26 goals-against average.

Per Mike Heika of DallasStars.com, here’s how the Stars aligned yesterday evening, with consideration for the goaltending swap –

Robertson – Seguin – Pavelski
Benn – Johnston – Dellandrea
Marchment – Glendening – Gurianov
Olofsson – Faksa – Kiviranta

Heiskanen – Miller
Lindell – Hakanpää
Suter – Lundkvist

Wedgewood
Oettinger

Dallas is currently without forward Roope Hintz (upper-body injury), who has five points from the two head-to-head matchups with the Kings so far this season. Former Kings prospect Colin Miller is expected to skate on the first pairing this evening for the Stars.

Notes –
Subbing In Sammy
It was around 10 AM yesterday when forward Samuel Fagemo got the call.

The Ontario Reign had just skated to a convincing, comeback victory in Colorado the night before as they turned a 3-1 deficit into a 7-3 victory, with Fagemo scoring twice in the win. As his AHL teammates prepared for the second game later that evening, Fagemo learned he would not participate, as he was being recalled by the Kings the following day and he needed to fly back to California that afternoon. He noted he got around 4 PM yesterday and this morning, he was the only of the three callups to take morning skate, with Tobias Bjornfot and Alex Turcotte still en route after playing last night.

Fagemo is also the only of the three players who is expected play tonight for the Kings, though Bjornfot and Turcotte should be at the game and available should they be needed. Fagemo will go for sure, however, and he’s hopeful to build off of an encouraging, three-game sample earlier this season. After his performance versus Arizona, Todd McLellan said it was the best game he’d seen Fagemo play this season. He detailed the traits that led to him saying that below.

“I think Sammy, from an offensive perspective, can really shoot the puck well, but he’s got to do a lot of work to get into position to shoot it, it’s not just going to come to him,” McLellan said this morning. “I thought he did a better job of that in those earlier games. His play around that, forecheck and the ability to plays alive, was better and he had more pop in his legs, more energy in the game than he did at any point in training camp this year.”

It hasn’t been perfect for Fagemo since he’s gone back down to Ontario, but it’s certainly been productive. He’s collected 10 points (6-4-10) from 12 games with the Reign since December 17, his first game back with the AHL club. That total includes four goals and six points over his last four games, including the three-point night in Colorado on Tuesday.

Fagemo put a focus on consistency when he was reassigned to the Reign. He feels he’s taken steps there, with a focus on creating more offensive chances and improving his game each day.

“I think my focus was on being more consistent and I’ve just worked on my game, I think I’ve gotten better each day,” he said. “I think that’s what my mindset was, just to compete and try to create more offensive chances down there. I think I did a good job of that.”

One of the things he has to work with when coming back up from the AHL is a potential reduction in role, as he could move from the top six to the bottom six, though that’s not necessarily a guarantee.

That doesn’t mean a change in mindset, though. Fagemo is approaching this opportunity the same way, independent of his place in the lineup. Do what he does well and go from there.

“I think I have the same mindset, I just go out and do my best on the ice. If that’s the fourth line or a top-six role, it doesn’t matter for me. I’m just happy to get the chance again and I’m going to make the most of it.”

Defending Dallas
An alliteration kind of morning!

When facing a team like the Stars, even without one of their best and brightest in Roope Hintz, their top line merits a lot of attention. With Hintz in the lineup, no line this season has accounted for more even-strength goals together as a line than the trio of Hintz, Jason Robertson and Joe Pavelski. They’re also one of just three lines in the NHL (minimum 250 minutes) to be over 70 percent in terms of percentage of goals for. Naturally, they have to adjust without Hintz and that should come in the form of forward Tyler Seguin slotting in between Robertson and Pavelski. Seguin is just shy of a point-per-game for his career against LA, so it’s a tough matchup either way.

“The coaches have to be aware and we have players we’d like to have on the ice against them, but it doesn’t always work that way,” McLellan said. “Even with last change on home ice, if teams get ahead of you on line changes, you don’t get the people that you want on the ice. We have to be aware of it and the players have to be aware, everybody has to be on their toes.”

The players have certainly taken notice. That line did convert against the Kings when the teams last played……twice in fact. On that night, it was Danault’s line that was used the most against the Dallas top line, though it was during a sequence when the Kings did not have that matchup that the line scored. So everyone has to be aware of the matchup that could be faced.

Sean Walker – You know that those lines are the ones that are going to capitalize on your mistakes, so you have that in the back of your mind. You want to maybe play with less risk on those shifts when you’re out there against guys like that, it’s in the back of your mind.

Rasmus Kupari – You have to know when you’re out there against them. You play your way, our system, but if it’s Dallas’ first line, or say Edmonton’s, there are guys that it’s good to know when they’re out there, and you’re out there against them, that they might do something different. They have more skill, they can see the ice a little bit differently, so you definitely have to know.

Hintz or no Hintz, a tough matchup awaits when that line hits the ice tonight.

Rolling Onto The Road
Lastly Insiders, a look at what’s to come. Seven games in seven cities begins tonight, even if the first stop of that sequence is Los Angeles.

For all intents and purposes, tonight will feel like a regular home game, but this time tomorrow, the team will be on a plane headed for Tennessee. So, despite the feeling of a regular home game, from the time it ends, there’s some feelings of a trip continuing as opposed to just beginning. Four days off coming in and 12 hours coming out can do that to a mindset.

“Yeah, there can be,” McLellan said this morning “It won’t feel like it, because we’ve been home for so long now and we’re coming off the break, but thinking ahead, tomorrow morning, we’re going to have a 10 o’clock practice, it’s an hour earlier, we’re going to fly and we’re gone. This game rolls into that long trip and then there’s another one of those markers that we talked about, the long break.”

Kings and Stars, tonight at 7:30 PM as we conclude a homestand. See you there!

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