3/25 Preview – No Morning Skate + Going Streaking, PPPersonnel, Kings Sign Krygier

WHO: Los Angeles Kings (41-20-10) vs. Winnipeg Jets (41-29-3)
WHEN: Saturday, March 25 @ 1:00 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: Following four days in between games, the Kings return to action this afternoon, to begin a back-to-back set on home ice.

HEAD-TO-HEAD: Forward Anze Kopitar scored four goals when these teams met in late-February. Kopitar leads the Kings in scoring versus the Jets this season with the four points, one of eight Kings players with multiple points from the two games. Forward Gabe Vilardi has scored in both games versus Winnipeg this season, while forward Blake Lizotte has points in three straight versus the Jets.

KINGS VITALS: Considering the afternoon puck drop, the Kings did not hold a morning skate in advance of today’s game.

The Kings have employed a goaltending split so far this month and if that should continue here this afternoon, Joonas Korpisalo will get the nod between the pipes. Should Korpisalo get the start, he brings with him a lifetime record of 3-1-0 versus Winnipeg, with a .933 save percentage and a 2.27 goals-against average.

Based on yesterday’s practice, here’s a potential alignment we could see this afternoon for the Kings –

Byfield – Kopitar – Kempe
Moore – Danault – Arvidsson
Iafallo – Lizotte – Vilardi
Grundstrom – Kupari – MacEwen

Anderson – Doughty
Gavrikov – Roy
Edler – Walker


Naturally, this has some speculation. Todd McLellan said yesterday that Gabriel Vilardi is “an option” for the Kings today. Vilardi left Monday’s game versus Calgary in the third period with an injury but practiced in full yesterday. Defenseman Sean Durzi and forward Kevin Fiala are also working their way back from injury and both players practiced yesterday, though it felt less likely that either would play. Forwards Jaret Anderson-Dolan and Arthur Kaliyev, along with defenseman Jordan Spence, are additional healthy options should the Kings opt in either direction.

JETS VITALS: Winnipeg has not scored more than three goals in any of its last seven games, but carries a 4-3-0 record from that span into today’s contest regardless.

Goaltender Connor Hellebuyck has started his team’s last five games, and 15 of Winnipeg’s last 18, so consider him today’s likely starter for the visitors. Hellebuyck is 5-5-1 lifetime versus the Kings, with a .905 save percentage and a 3.18 goals-against average, his third-highest GAA against any opponent he’s faced at least 10 times in the NHL.

Per Ken Weebe of Sportsnet, here’s how the Jets aligned during yesterday’s practice –

Winnipeg blueliner Josh Morrissey ranks second in the NHL in points by defensemen so far this season, while his six game-winning goals are tied for the league lead among blueliners. Jets blueliner Neal Pionk was a collegiate teammate of Kings forward Alex Iafallo. Mark Schiefele’s 38 goals are tied for the third most in a season in Jets franchise history.

Notes –
There are two sides to the run the Kings are currently on – how we’re talking about it and how the players and coaches are feeling about it.

On one hand, the Kings are closing in on a pair of franchise records. They’ve earned a point in 10 consecutive games. They’ve also picked up points in 11 straight games at home. With a point tonight, the former would tie a franchise record. The Kings have had three point streaks of 11 games in franchise history, most recently coming in 2013. Regarding the latter, they’ll need points in both games this weekend to tie the franchise record of 13, set during the 1992-93 campaign. The current mark of 11 games is tied for the second-best run in franchise history, a mark previously achieved in 1990 and 2002.

There’s also the notion of the seven-game homestand, which has reached its final weekend. The Kings are 3-0-2 to date, amassing eight of a possible 10 points. The best seven-game homestand in franchise history was a record of 5-1-1, which the Kings would surpass with two wins this weekend and equalize with a total of three points.

That’s the statistical side and that’s the side we’re broadcasting loudly for all to hear.

In the room though, attaching the numbers to the wins and the points is a lot less important, at least in the way it’s described above. When you have points in 10 consecutive games, you’re likely happy with the way you’re playing. Doesn’t mean it’s perfect, by any means, but something is going well. It’s the latter, though, that the team is focused on, not the former. Reaching a milestone streak is something to be celebrated, it just won’t be coming from within the room.

“Maybe the players are talking about it in their cars or whatever but we don’t talk about a streak at all,” McLellan said. “There’s no hey, this is what a record is, we’ve got to keep the streak alive, we just don’t do that. We see something, we try and repair it or augment it or promote it and get ready to play the next game, it’s just simple.

From a player point of view, they’re focused on the things that the group is doing well and the good feelings that come from that.

I’m sure there are people within the room who are aware of the length of the run, but there are those who aren’t at the same time. The focus right now is on the group doing a lot of things well and then focusing to correct the parts of the game that aren’t operating quite as smoothly. There’s a good feeling going and a feeling of belief that success will continue to come if the group continues to do the right things. A good mentality to have, as the regular season draws closer and closer to an end.

Viktor Arvidsson – It’s fun when you win and you have a good feeling in the group, compared to when you lose and I’ve been on both sides of the coin. I just think everybody’s doing what they’re supposed to do, right now. We’ve got to stay humble and keep doing that. If you look at the best teams, they do that, they feed off each other, the competitive nature within the group. I think that’s where we are right now and it’s just really fun to see everybody stepping up.

Quinton Byfield – I think overall, the last stretch has been really good and it’s exciting to come to the rink. I think everyone’s excited and happy to be here. We had a good practice [yesterday] just to get better and I feel like we come to the rink each game and we have the feeling that we want to win and we do want to win. It’s fun right now.

Advantage Adjustments
The Kings made a couple of small tweaks to their power-play units before the game against Calgary on Monday.

There are a few reasons to make adjustments, as Todd McLellan details below. The power play, a strength of this team all season, hasn’t been producing at the 25-percent clip they’ve been scoring at for some time, though it hasn’t dried up entirely either. A few reasons it’s looked at, with the Kings opting for small-scale movement.

“Sometimes you’re looking for hands, you’re looking for point of attack, looking at what the opposition is doing, so you might move a piece from one unit to another,” McLellan said. “Sometimes it gets stale and you just have to jolt some players and say okay, it’s time. They did their thing the other night, they produced, they were effective. It was good to see.”

The movements made saw Viktor Arvidsson move onto Anze Kopitar’s unit, while Quinton Byfield moved to Phillip Danault’s unit. Still labeling them by centerman, as opposed to the “PP1 and PP2” designations as both units have shown an ability to score this season. Arvidsson has been a staple in his role and position for almost the entirety of the season, as the primary playmaking option on his unit. Arvidsson’s 3.26 primary assists per/60 on the man advantage trail only Kevin Fiala on the Kings, while ranking seventh in the NHL. At 7.7 power-play points per/60, no Kings player has been more productive on the man advantage this season than Arvidsson. That total ranks ninth in the league amongst qualifying forwards.

For the first time this season, Arvidsson and Gabe Vilardi were used on the same unit, with Arvidsson operating on the left side of the umbrella and Vilardi in the bumper role. The opportunity for Arvidsson came in the form of more opportunities to shoot the puck and Viktor Arvidsson is a man who likes to shoot the puck. Arvidsson scored the team’s fourth goal, a one-timer off a seam pass from Adrian Kempe. While there is a different look to it, assistant coach Jim Hiller has said that both units run large in part the same system.

For Arvidsson, it’s a new opportunity, but the same goal.

“It’s two different positions, but I try to talk a lot and we as a unit of five are on the same page and we want to do the same thing,” he said. “It’s special players on special teams, so you’ve got to do something special to be there. I think we were doing that and I’m just trying to bring my kind of game into it.”

Moving the other way was Quinton Byfield, who goes from the high-slot bumper position to the net front. Net front seems to sit Byfield’s game in a lot of ways. First and foremost, he’s 6-5 with a long reach and an ability to win battles in tight areas. He’s also proven to be an excellent puck retriever, winning pucks back below the goal line off of rebounds or missed passes, which can allow the Kings additional looks and the ability to reload.

“In zone is a little different, but the main thing is we’re just trying to score so whatever works,” he said. “I like net front, it’s a good spot. Any opportunity on the power play is good, it gets you more ice time, more opportunities to use your offensive abilities and net front is a good place for me.”

The end result for the Kings was two PPG’s against the Flames, their second two-goal output from their last four games played. While personnel will likely change again as Sean Durzi and Kevin Fiala eventually work their way back into the fold, seeing the success from the moves made on Monday should offer a way forward with versatility, should it be needed later in the season.

Kings Ink Krygier
Lastly, Insiders, another update regarding defenseman Cole Krygier.

Krygier’s rights were acquired from the Florida Panthers earlier this week in exchange for future considerations. Krygier inked an ATO with the AHL’s Ontario Reign shortly thereafter, where he’ll spend the remainder of the 2022-23 season. Earlier today, Krygier signed a two-year, entry-level contract with the Kings, beginning in the 2023-24 season. Krygier’s ATO will remain valid through the end of this season, with his NHL contract beginning in the fall.

More on Krygier HERE. The left-shot defenseman has yet to make his professional debut with Ontario, but expect that to come soon enough, as he gets accustomed to the organization. Krygier met the team on their most recent roadtrip in Tucson and has been around the group for a few days. Ontario is back in action tomorrow afternoon versus Abbotsford at home.

Kings and Jets, today at 1 PM in the penultimate game of the seven-game homestand. See you there!

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