R1, G5 Preview – Best-Of-3 Series + Fiala Factor, Working Overtime, Broadcast Reminder

WHO: Los Angeles Kings (2-2) @ Edmonton Oilers (2-2)
WHEN: Tuesday, April 25 @ 6:30 PM Pacific
WHERE: Rogers Place – Edmonton, Alberta
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: FOX 11 Plus, KCOP Channel 13 (Local) / ESPN (National) – AUDIO – iHeart Radio – TWITTER: @DooleyLAK & @LAKings

TONIGHT’S MATCHUP: It’s a best-of-three! The Kings and Oilers return to action this evening for Game 5 in Edmonton, with the first to two wins advancing.

HEAD-TO-HEAD: Forward Adrian Kempe brings a four-game point streak in this series into tonight’s action, extended with an assist in Game 4. With six points (2-4-6) from four games played, forward Anze Koptiar is tied for tenth in the NHL in scoring this postseason. Defenseman Matt Roy scored his first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal on Sunday.

KINGS VITALS: The Kings held what appeared to be a full-team morning skate today in Edmonton after the group went with a very limited practice yesterday afternoon in El Segundo.

Goaltender Joonas Korpisalo is expected to make the start once again this evening, as he was the first goaltender off following morning skate in Edmonton. Korpisalo has faced the heaviest workload in the playoffs to date, with 158 shots against in four games, while his .948 save percentage at 5-on-5 ranks third in the postseason among goaltenders with at least three games played.

No direct indication of tonight’s lineup from morning skate, so Game 4 lines are embedded below –

Kevin Fiala took his first morning skate in a full-contact jersey, as to be expected coming off his 2023 postseason debut in Game 4. Blake Lizotte did not skate with the group this morning and will not play tonight in Game 5, per Todd McLellan. Should the Kings opt for any additional changes, defensemen Tobias Bjornfot and Sean Walker, along with forwards Arthur Kaliyev, Alex Laferriere and Zack MacEwen are options to check into the lineup.

OILERS VITALS: In Game 4, the Oilers came from three goals down to win a playoff game for the first time since 1997, the fourth time they’ve done so in franchise history.

Goaltender Stuart Skinner will get the nod once again for the visitors this evening in Los Angeles. Skinner, who was pulled after the first period in Game 4, brings a record of 1-2 into tonight’s action, with a .881 save percentage and a 3.38 goals-against average.

From Daniel Nugent-Bowman of The Athletic, here’s how the Oilers lined up in Game 4 in Los Angeles –

Oilers forward Evander Kane was not on the ice for morning skate for the second straight game, but played in Game 4 under similar circumstances. Forward Leon Draisaitl has been on the ice for all 14 of his team’s goals during the first four games of the series, which is just a ridiculous statistic. Since he entered the league, no player has a better points-per-game pace (1.66) in the postseason than Draisaitl.

Notes –
The Fiala Factor
The roar of the crowd in Los Angeles as the scoreboard showed number 22 in black walking through the tunnel to take the ice for warmups said it all.

The Kings had been without their most dynamic, offensive player throughout the course of the series……until Game 4. Kevin Fiala rejoined the lineup and collected two points in an impactful postseason debut with the organization. Fiala’s importance to this group is evident through his own ability, certainly, but also for the depth he brings to the overall lineup. Unlike most players of his caliber, Fiala essentially creates his own line, typically the third listed unit, which gives the Kings three, top-six caliber lines on a given night. When everyone is going, that creates matchup problems for any opponent, when you have to account for three scoring lines offensively.

“One, it gives you an emotional boost when you get one of your top players back from injury and he’s ready to play at a high level and he played at a high level, so that emotionally gives the whole group a boost,” Todd McLellan said. “Secondly, it takes the skill level and the creativity level up immensely for our team. Third, it has an effect on the opposition, now they have to think about him and what they do with them, how they manage him with their pairs or their lines or whatever it might be. So, it helped us in all areas.”

On night one, Fiala’s line with Gabe Vilardi and Alex Iafallo found itself on the right side of scoring chances (11-9) and high-danger chances (7-4), as they added that extra dimension to the Kings offensively. They also connected for the game’s first goal. Fiala was just about everything the Kings could have wanted in his first game back as he made an impact on the game, as McLellan mentioned.

His teammates took notice as well.

The team knows how important Fiala is and there was a notable excitement to get him back into the fold. His play speaks for itself and everyone is happy to have him back.

Adrian Kempe – He’s been unreal all year for us and obviously we’ve been missing him when he was out and we’re happy that he’s back now and he really contributed in his first game back, I think. Just for him to try to get his legs back in the game, he hasn’t played in a while, but I think he was really good last game, so hopefully he can keep that going.

Trevor Moore – It’s huge, I mean, he obviously scores, but he just controls the play when he’s out there. He has the puck on his stick all the time, it’s on a string and he’s a strong guy, you see him out there and he’s hitting guys. It’s just huge having him back.

Matt Roy – He really drives the team, he drives offense. He’s an energy guy out there and he can make can plays when you don’t think there’s a play to be made. He definitely gave us a lift and we’re all happy to have him back.

Now, they’ll need that level to be raised once again, from Fiala and the entire team. Just having him back, though, is exciting for the group.

Working Overtime
When this game took place last season – Game 5 in Edmonton – it turned out to be the only game of the series that went into overtime. Even so, overtime lasted just 72 seconds as Kempe drove the net with authority and sent the Kings home with a 3-2 series lead after a 5-4 victory.

This series, while still tied after four games, has naturally been quite different. Three of the four games have gone into overtime and while Trevor Moore’s game-winning goal in Game 3 came early, none of the three games have been as short as last season’s Game 5. The three games have combined for just over a period of hockey in total, at 22 minutes and 23 seconds of play.

It’s been one of many differences in this series. Through four games a season ago, while things were tied at two, the Oilers had scored 17 goals from the first three games, before an LA shutout in Game 4 pushed the scoreline to 17-10 in Edmonton’s favor. Even when the Kings led the series 3-2, the Oilers had scored six more goals. It’s been as even as can be from a scoring perspective in 2023, though, with just an empty-net goal in Game 2 the difference between what otherwise would have been four, one-goal games.

In overtime situations, it always feels to the viewer like the game changes. Everything tightens up, even semi-riskier plays are shelved for the safe option and the whistles are swallowed. That’s the general consensus……but is that how it actually plays out? The players in the heart of it give you their thoughts –

Mikey Anderson – I don’t think it changes much. Obviously you want to play the same way. If you’re playing to not give up a goal, you’re not going to produce much, so on the flip side, you’re not going to win the game. I think you try and keep at it the same way, obviously we like our play in the first, so I think you’re trying to get back to that to spend overtime the same way and see what happens.

Quinton Byfield – I think you try to be business as usual, I think the mentality is more just get the puck to the net, get in behind them and let them make the mistake. Make the easy plays, get as many pucks as you can to the net and hope for a bounce to go your way.

The Kings have been on the right side in two of the three overtime tilts to date, though both wins bucked what many to be a trend, as both goals came on the power play. There’s the goal of keeping it business as usual in those situations is the goal, though as McLellan adds, it’s not as easy as simply doing it as the game does change every so slightly.

“I think the easy answer is it’s really important, but it’s not always that easy though,” McLellan said. “There there can be circumstances leading into overtime that you have to overcome and there can be changes or adjustments that have to occur, your timeframe to do it a shorter, you don’t get the TV timeouts like you normally do in the first three periods. The dynamic of the game changes just a little bit, but there’s no reason not to come on ready to play, you have a chance to win.”

No guarantee we’ll see overtime again there tonight, but there’s always a chance with the way this series has gone so far.

Lastly, Insiders, I know it’s noted above, but a reminder that locally, tonight’s game will be available on Fox 11 Plus, KCOP Channel 13, as well as ESPN. If you’re looking for the regular local crew, hit 13 on the remote. In recording Kings Keys this morning, it took me approximately 20 tries to say Fox 11 Plus, KCOP Channel 13 in one take, so please watch to vindicate my effort.

Game 5, tonight at 6:30 PM Pacific time! An exciting one lies ahead.

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