3/11 Preview – Fiala “day-to-day” + Morning Skate Updates, Seventh Heaven, Ingredients To The Recipe

WHO: Los Angeles Kings (38-20-8) vs. Nashville Predators (31-24-7)
WHEN: Saturday, March 11 @ 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 begin a seven-game homestand this evening as they host the Nashville Predators in the rubber match of the season series.

HEAD-TO-HEAD: Defenseman Matt Roy has two goals from two games played versus Nashville this season. Forward Quinton Byfield has five points (1-4-5) from three career games against the Predators, while linemate Anze Kopitar has seven points (2-5-7) from his last seven games versus Nashville.

KINGS VITALS: Following a team off day yesterday, the Kings held a full-team morning skate here this morning at Toyota Sports Performance Center.

In continuing with the rotation the Kings have employed since the trade deadline, expect to see goaltender Pheonix Copley between the pipes this evening on home ice. Copley has faced the Predators three times in his NHL career, but has played just one full game, posting a 0-1-0 record lifetime versus Nashville.

Here is how the Kings aligned during this morning’s skate –

Byfield – Kopitar – Kempe
Moore – Danault – Arvidsson
Iafallo – Lizotte – Vilardi
Grundstrom – Kupari – MacEwen
Anderson-Dolan – Kaliyev

Anderson – Doughty
Gavrikov – Roy
Edler – Walker


Morning skate this morning was a full-team skate, sans Sean Durzi and Kevin Fiala. From last game’s lineup against Colorado, expect forward Carl Grundstrom and defenseman Alex Edler to check in, in place of Fiala and defenseman Jordan Spence. Fiala is “day-to-day” and will not play tonight. This morning’s skate shows Jaret Anderson-Dolan, Arthur Kaliyev and Jordan Spence as tonight’s healthy scratches, should everything go according to plan. More on that below.

PREDATORS VITALS: Nashville is currently on the back half of a six-game roadtrip and has picked up points in three of their first four games, despite a seller’s mentality at the trade deadline before the trip began.

Jusse Saros has been the goaltender of record for the Predators in eight of their last nine games so we’ll project him to get the nod again this evening at Crypto.com Arena. Saros has posted a career record of 4-1-1 versus the Kings, along with a .918 save percentage and a 2.93 goals-against average.

Per Emma Lingan of NashvillePredators.com, here’s how the visitors aligned versus Arizona on Thursday –

Forward Filip Forsberg is currently injured and is not expected to play tonight versus the Kings. Nashville defenseman Roman Josi is tied for the league-lead among blueliners with eight power-play goals this season. Forward Matt Duchene has five goals and six points from six games played against the Kings since he joined the Predators organization.

Notes –
Seventh Heaven
Insiders, a quick look ahead.

Tonight’s game against Nashville begins a seven-game homestand for the Kings, their longest of the 2022-23 season. The Kings have hosted 17, seven-game homestands in franchise history, including two a season ago. Those went in about as contrasting of directions as you could imagine. A 1-4-2 homestand and a 5-2-0 homestand, with the latter falling one point short of a franchise record on the high end and the former unfortunately tying a franchise low at the other end.

The Kings have been a substantially better home team this season than they were a season ago. With a .677 winning percentage, the Kings rank fifth best in the NHL on home ice this season, with 11 games still to come at Crypto.com Arena. Last season, the Kings went just 21-16-5 at home, good for a winning percentage of .561, which was the second-worst among teams that qualified for the playoffs.

Included in the current run is the six-game home winning streak the Kings enter tonight’s action riding. The team has played six games at home since the All-Star break. They’ve won all six, dating back to the commanding victory over Pittsburgh following Dustin Brown’s jersey retirement back in February. Over those six games, the Kings have outscored their opposition by a 27-13 margin – what goal differential, right? – with an average of 4.5 goals scored per game.

So, that begs the question – is there a reason as to why the team has been so much more successful at home so far this season? I’m not sure that there is an answer, though.

“Every year, if you go back to the beginning, takes on its own life, its own set of circumstances,” Todd McLellan said. “I do think that we score more than we did in the past, that helps you win a little bit more especially at home. We’re probably deeper up front than we have been in the past, which helps with matches but other than that, I don’t have an explanation for you.”

Speaking with those in the room, there wasn’t a ton more to offer, even as everyone recognizes the situation.

“There’s nothing I can think of, I feel like we try and play the same way no matter where we’re at,” defenseman Mikey Anderson said. “This year, the start was the start, but we’ve gotten more consistent and we’re trying to just keep the same thought process home and road, no matter where it is. You want to be good at home though, use the crowd, use the fans, use the travel, use everything to your advantage if you’re able to.”

Forward Phillip Danault gave a similar answer which makes you think that perhaps there isn’t an answer to the question.

“Maybe we’re more dialed in,” he offered as a potential explanation. But nothing clearcut. Earlier this season, forward Adrian Kempe mentioned that it was something the team had talked about, wanting to be better at home this season. So the group was aware at least early on that they were a very good team on the road a season ago and this season, home performance has been outstanding without sacrificing anything when away.

Regardless of the reasoning, whether it be depth, consistency, scoring ability, mentality or process, the Kings are hopeful to see it continue. Over the course of the next seven games, plenty of time to see that process play out.

The Ingredients To The Recipe
The Kings have reached a place, from a depth perspective, where they have more players available to play than places to play them. Hard to sit here and say that Jaret Anderson-Dolan can’t play capable minutes in the bottom six. The same goes for Arthur Kaliyev up front, or Jordan Spence on the backend. All three of those individuals are not expected to play tonight, even though they are capable of doing so.

First things first, forward Trevor Moore will move back with Phillip Danault and Viktor Arvidsson, with Kevin Fiala unable to go tonight.

“He’s played there in the past, that was his spot for most of the year prior to getting injured and I know the other two don’t blink an eye when he comes back,” McLellan said of Moore. “There’s not a lot out of having to discuss where we’re going and what we’re doing, there’s some comfort and some familiarity with him being there.”

That creates the need for one additional move, in Moore’s spot on the fourth line, which appears most likely to go to forward Carl Grundstrom, with Anderson-Dolan and Kaliyev not expected to play.

McLellan called not playing Anderson-Dolan and Kaliyev “very, very difficult” decisions to make. He pointed to organizational depth and different pieces to the puzzle when talking about how he and his coaching staff are going about constructing a lineup, night by night.

“As I said the other day, we’re exactly where we want to be as an organization right now, where every night’s competitive,” he explained. “Ingredients that go into the night are considered now, not just players and that type of stuff. There are certain ingredients that are needed on a nightly basis and if you’re able to deliver the ingredient that’s needed, you might be in the lineup before somebody else.”

Anderson-Dolan brings versatility and work ethic, with the ability to play both center and wing. Kaliyev has one of the most unique weapons in his arsenal – his shot – and has worked hard to improve upon his board work and physicality to complement it. The Kings are currently opting for a bit of a more traditional fourth line, with straight-line players like Grundstrom and Zack MacEwen flanking Rasmus Kupari, who has become a valuable penalty killer as a right-shot centerman. People like to harp on those who are not playing, but is there a reasy why those who are playing shouldn’t?

I can’t think of one and that lends itself to some challenging decisions to make moving forward.

“I don’t think there’s a real clear path to ‘this guy’s really playing poorly, he’s got to come out’ and that happens sometimes, but after the deadline, we have a larger team with with more players on it and we have some new players that we think will be important and they have to play to get used to what’s going on,” McLellan added. Not everybody can dress and the problems or the issues that we have with sitting players out are great issues right now, that’s where we wanted to get to, because some good players aren’t playing on a nightly basis. It’s just the way it is and we’ve starved for this for years and we’re finally getting here.”

Puck Doubleheader
Lastly, Insiders, a double-header of sorts for the Kings.

Yes, it’s a doubleheader day at Crypto.com Arena, with the Clippers playing the matinee, but there’s also an additional hockey game this afternoon in the South Bay. As a part of the PWHPA’s California swing to close out their season, Team Adidas and Team Sonnet will square off at 3 PM this afternoon at Toyota Sports Performance Center in El Segundo.

Both teams have several players who feature for the United States and Canadian national teams, including Hilary Knight, Brianne Jenner and Haley Skarupa with Team Sonnet, as well as Kendall Coyne-Schfield, Sarah Nurse and Amanda Kessel with Team Adidas.

If interested, information/tickets are available here.

Kings and Predators, rubber match for the season series, tonight at 7:30 PM in Los Angeles! See you there!

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