1/31 Preview – Full-Team Skate + Tonight’s Mentality, Danault Talks Line, Hurricane Of Possession

WHO: Los Angeles Kings (28-18-6) @ Carolina Hurricanes (32-9-8)
WHEN: Tuesday, January 31 @ 4:00 PM Pacific
WHERE: PNC Arena – Raleigh, North Carolina
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: Bally Sports West – AUDIO – iHeart Radio – TWITTER: @DooleyLAK & @LAKings

TONIGHT’S MATCHUP: The roadtrip finally comes to a close this evening, as the Kings visit the Metropolitan Division leaders, the Carolina Hurricanes, to conclude the season series between the two teams.

HEAD-TO-HEAD: Forward Blake Lizotte is riding a three-game point streak against the Hurricanes, including an assist earlier this season. Forward Brendan Lemieux has two points (1-1-2) from his last two games played against Carolina. Tonight’s hosts have won six of the last seven games between these two teams in Raleigh.

KINGS VITALS: The Kings held a full-team morning skate today, following a full-team practice yesterday in Tampa Bay. Typically, the team holds an optional twirl after a practice, but Todd McLellan elaborated on the decision to change things up.

“We’ve had some days off on the road and yesterday’s practice was just about getting the legs going, today we could polish things up a little bit,” McLellan said the mandatory skate. “It feels like we’ve been on the road for a long time, as you guys know, because we haven’t played many games down this back end of the trip. Just to change the day up a little bit, try something, we’ll see where it goes.”

Goaltender Pheonix Copley was off first this morning and is expected to get this nod this evening in Raleigh, his fifth start from six games on this trip. Copley has yet to face the Hurricanes in his NHL career to date. Carolina will be the 25th different opponent Copley has faced in his career to date.

Listed below are this morning’s line rushes from PNC Arena –

Byfield – Kopitar – Kempe
Iafallo – Danault – Arvidsson
Fiala – Lizotte – Anderson-Dolan
Lemieux – Turcotte – Kupari

Anderson – Doughty
Durzi – Roy
Edler – Walker


From the rushes, it appears as if defenseman Tobias Bjornfot and forward Samuel Fagemo could be tonight’s healthy scratches. The above alignment would point towards Alex Turcotte returning to the lineup for his fourth game of the roadtrip and the 2022-23 NHL season, in place of Fagemo, with Rasmus Kupari shifting back to the wing.

HURRICANES VITALS: Carolina enters tonight’s action with wins in five straight games and points in eight consecutive games, dating back to January 12. Tonight’s matchup is the final game before the All-Star break for both teams.

Goaltender Frederik Andersen was off first this morning for the hosts, making him tonight’s likely starter for the Hurricanes. Anderson has faced the Kings 15 times throughout his professional career, posting a 10-1-3 record, a .935 save percentage and a 2.08 goals-against average.

Per Walt Ruff of Carolina’s team website, here’s how the Hurricanes aligned during yesterday’s practice –

Defenseman Jaccob Slavin has a lower-body injury and is not expected to play tonight for the Hurricanes. Leading Carolina against the Kings has been defenseman Brady Skjei, who has four points (1-3-4) and a +5 rating over the last two seasons versus LA. Defenseman Brent Burns has more points versus the Kings than any defensemen over the last 30 seasons.

Notes –
What This One Means
There’s a big difference between 4-2 and 3-3 in Todd McLellan’s eyes.

4-2 marks a good trip for the Kings, which is the record they would take home should they pick up a win here tonight in Carolina. 3-3 is their record should they lose. 3-3 is not a bad trip, an average one rather, but the Kings didn’t set out to have an average trip. It’s six road games, spread out in a bit of a weird schedule, so posting that even record is not a bad thing, but it’s also not the goal.

“There are a couple of ways of looking at it, one is taking this trip and segmenting it,” McLellan said this morning. “We’re 3-2 right now, going home 4-2 would be a quite a good trip for us, 3-3 is just an average trip and that’s not what we’re shooting for. I’m not sure that we’re going to carry this game with us throughout the break, when we reconvene on the ninth we’re thinking differently, we’re thinking about getting the team going. I don’t know that it’s going to carry forward, but it’s a real good test for us at the back end of a long trip, with different circumstances in play.”

The players are doing their best to apply full focus tonight’s game, despite the break upcoming.

For Kevin Fiala, he’s off to Fort Lauderdale for the 2023 NHL All-Star Game, his first time participating in the event. Naturally, he’s excited for that, but he’s keeping his sights set first and foremost on tonight’s game. With no games for the Kings for 10 days following tonight’s action, there’s no reason not to leave it all out there in Carolina.

“It’s one more game and we’re trying to focus on this and nothing else,” Fiala said. “We’re going to have a break after, so we should have the energy for this one, just to leave it all out there, there’s nothing to save it for.”

For defenseman Sean Durzi, there isn’t an All-Star game to look forward to, but rather an All-Star break. Durzi recalled back to last season when the Kings were able to take two points in Detroit, on the road, under similar circumstances.

He talked about mentality and understanding the importance of every two points, regardless of when they might come. As McLellan noted yesterday, you don’t want to look back at any one game at the end of the year and wonder what it might have cost you. That message resonated with the group.

“We kind of had a similar situation last year with the points and we know how valuable they are,” Durzi said. “It’s the end of a road trip, a lot of teams think it’s easy to just mail it in and hit the break, but we’ve got to be dialed in tonight. We’ve got to be ready to go and those points, we can’t let them slip. I think everybody knows the importance of this one.

Whatever the outcome winds up being, the Kings are certainly saying the right things heading in. The proof will be in the pudding when the team takes the ice later on this evening.

Phil-ling The Net
As covered last week, it had been a challenging stretch for the Kings second line. Not because they’ve been playing poorly – they’ve played difficult minutes against high-level competition and they’ve checked quite well. They just haven’t matched their play with the production, until the end of the second period in Tampa Bay.

Perhaps all it takes is a bit of a bounce to change that. Phillip Danault looked for Viktor Arvidsson off the rush on Saturday, but his pass was deflected by a Tampa Bay stick and into the net. Not necessarily the intended result of the play, but a goal nonetheless. Speaking after the game with Alex Iafallo, the third member of that line, as well as Head Coach Todd McLellan, they both felt that perhaps getting a bit of a weird one to go in is exactly what could get the production going.

Danault spoke about the bounces he feels his line hasn’t gotten – at both ends of the ice – and how perhaps the tide could start to turn.

Danault on getting a weird goal and if that can potentially jumpstart production
I think we were getting a lot of weird bounces against us over the last few games, and maybe that can get it started for us. I thought we were playing pretty well in that game and we got rewarded there. Sometimes you need one like that to get going.

On how he feels his line has played as of late
It wasn’t perfect, we’ve got to be better, but it felt like we were getting a lot of weird bounces and minuses for no reason. Sometimes, it’s things we can’t control and we’ve got to stay strong mentally, keep pushing and believe in our line. We were having the chances, they just weren’t going in. Hopefully they start to.

Important to get that offensive production from the second line, as the Kings are without several other regulars up front. Sometimes it just takes a strange one to get everything moving, and the Kings are hopeful that is the case here tonight.

A Hurricane Of Puck Possession
Make no mistake about it, the Hurricanes are a puck possession darling.

Todd McLellan has referenced the amount of possession time they have and how they like to shoot the puck. In terms of shot attempts per/60, no team averages more than Carolina. That makes them a high-event team, right? Well, in the offensive zone, they most certainly are.

At the other end of the ice, no team averages fewer shot attempts against than Carolina. The Hurricanes also lead the league in fewest scoring chances against and rank in the Top-5 in fewest high-danger chances against.

“They close really quick and they spend a lot of time in the offensive zone,” McLellan said. It’s a high-event game when they’re involved in your end. It’s going to your net and if you don’t get ahead of them defensively, you waste all your energy chasing them around, change, and they’re right back in your zone. Trying to play ahead of them is important, but it’s easier said than done.”

Throughout their lineup, the Hurricanes are a balanced and stout team. Their fourth line plays the same way as their first line and their defensemen have a clear vision, 1 through 6.

A challenging team to face, certainly, for any opponent.

“All four lines play the same way, their D have a real good idea of what they want to get accomplished on the ice,” McLellan added. “Night after night after night, they play the same type of game, whether they’re up or down and for me, from a coaching perspective, that’s balance.”

The Kings will look to conquer that challenge this evening, the final game they’ll play before the All-Star break. 4 PM Pacific tonight, for the final time until February 11!

Rules for Blog Commenting

  • No profanity, slurs or other offensive language. Replacing letters with symbols does not turn expletives into non-expletives.
  • Personal attacks against other blog commenters, and/or blatant attempts to antagonize other comments, are not tolerated. Respectful disagreement is encouraged. Posts that continually express the same singular opinion will be deleted.
  • Comments that incite political, religious or similar debates will be deleted.
  • Please do not discuss, or post links to websites that illegally stream NHL games.
  • Posting under multiple user names is not allowed. Do not type in all caps. All violations are subject to comment deletion and/or banning of commenters, per the discretion of the blog administrator.

Repeated violations of the blog rules will result in site bans, commensurate with the nature and number of offenses.

Please flag any comments that violate the site rules for moderation. For immediate problems regarding problematic posts, please email zdooley@lakings.com.