WHO: Los Angeles Kings (10-3-3) @ Arizona Coyotes (8-7-2)
WHAT: NHL REGULAR-SEASON GAME
WHEN: Monday, November 20 @ 6:00 PM Pacific
WHERE: Mullett Arena – Tempe, AZ
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: Bally Sports West – AUDIO – iHeart Radio – TWITTER: @DooleyLAK & @LAKings
TONIGHT’S MATCHUP: Coming off their longest homestand of the season, the Kings return to the road today for a quick trip into the desert, as they conclude the season series against Arizona.
HEAD-TO-HEAD: Forward Adrian Kempe leads the Kings in the season series to date against Arizona, with four points (1-3-4) from two games played. Defenseman Drew Doughty and forward Anze Kopitar top the charts with two goals apiece across the two games, with Doughty scoring twice the last time these teams met in Arizona in late-October.
KINGS VITALS: Following a mostly full-team morning skate yesterday, the Kings held an optional morning skate today in Tempe.
Goaltender Pheonix Copley was off first this morning, making him tonight’s expected starter against the Coyotes. Copley started each of the first two games versus Arizona this season, winning at home, before he was pulled on the road in an eventual Kings victory. All-time, Copley is 2-0-0 against the Coyotes, with a .871 save percentage and a 3.74 goals-against average.
Expect to see one change tonight for the Kings in terms of personnel. Forward Blake Lizotte left Saturday’s game against St. Louis during the third period and did not return. Lizotte will not play tonight in Arizona, with forward Jaret Anderson-Dolan likely to check in, though it’s unclear exactly how exactly it will impact the lineup. Last game’s alignment shown for reference, noting the one change –
Tonight's @LAKings Line Rushes –
Byfield – Kopitar – Kempe
Fiala – Danault – Moore
Laferriere – Dubois – Kaliyev
Grundstrom – Lizotte – Lewis
Anderson – Doughty
Gavrikov – Roy
Englund – Spence
— Zach Dooley (@DooleyLAK) November 19, 2023
Regarding Lizotte, McLellan noted he’s not sure “if he’s going to be day-to-day, or maybe a week to ten days”. So, he Lizotte won’t play today and we’ll see how he trends as we approach a back-to-back for the Kings this coming weekend. Does not appear to be anything long-term though, which is good news for an important player within the Kings lineup. More on that below.
COYOTES VITALS: Entering tonight’s game, Arizona has traded off wins and losses for 11 consecutive games, most recently dropping a 5-2 decision against Winnipeg.
Goaltender Connor Ingram is expected to get the start between the pipes this evening against the Kings. Ingram has faced the Kings twice throughout his NHL career, bringing a record of 0-0-1, with a .906 save percentage and a 2.94 goals-against average.
Per Arizona’s team account, here’s how the Coyotes lined up last time out –
Lineup in Winnipeg pic.twitter.com/M9kVT3dBYf
— Arizona Coyotes (@ArizonaCoyotes) November 18, 2023
A pair of former Kings defensemen – Sean Durzi and Troy Stecher – are expected to play tonight against their former club. Arizona forward Logan Cooley leads all NHL rookies with 10 assists and ranks second with 12 points. Entering tonight’s action, no team in the NHL has more one-goal losses than Arizona’s four.
Two parter here. Part 1 is how do the Kings replace Lizotte and Part 2 is what are they looking for from the player coming in.
First things first, forward Jaret Anderson-Dolan will check into the lineup tonight for what will be his third NHL game of the season. What’s less clear is how the Kings will work Anderson-Dolan into the mix. One might assume a straight swap, which is an option, but McLellan noted the Kings have a few ways they could go about it and the way they line up to start the game might not exactly be how they end it.
“We have a couple options, we can put Lewie in the middle or we can put JAD the middle, we can also move some other guys from other lines around,” McLellan said this morning. “We’ll start a certain way and we’ll see how the night goes. Arizona, the team we play, plays four lines and the coach trusts them all, so everybody is going to have to be active on our side and they’re going to have to give us good nights if we’re going to have a chance at success. We’ll see how we start and then figure it out from there.”
The positional side of it is important, but it’s not really the biggest concern with regards to Lizotte.
At the end of the day, both Anderson-Dolan and Lewis can play center – both came up as natural centers – so that will take care of itself. Others in the lineup can also play in the middle as needed, if the Kings opt to adjust the lines a bit.
It’s more about what Lizotte brings that the Kings will have to make sure does not slip. He’s the first player over the boards on the penalty kill, meaning that unit will have to shuffle around a bit. He’s good in the faceoff dot. Perhaps above all else, though, he’s the guy who can drag teammates into a game when it’s needed. That’s an important thing to replace and it likely won’t be just one guy.
“He’s a big part of our engine, he makes us go in so many different ways and it’s hard not to follow a player like that,” McLellan said this morning. “When you lose that, somebody else has to pick up the slack and that can come from anybody. It can come from Kopi playing as many games as he has to Laf still being in his first month in the NHL. We’ll be looking for that, we’ll be keeping an eye on it and it’s important that somebody does replace that energy.”
With regards to Anderson-Dolan, he’s a versatile player who is valuable for his proficiency playing both center and wing, as well as an ability to slot into different lineup roles and contribute. While it’s not yet known exactly how the Kings will align tonight, one of Anderson-Dolan’s calling cards throughout his career has been the versatility and an ability to adapt to different situations. The Kings value Lizotte and his line pretty highly, trusting them to play in situations you might not expect from a fourth line. Against Arizona, that will need to continue, regardless of personnel or alignment.
Anderson-Dolan’s first extended NHL opportunity came as a center, as he formed an effective line with Carl Grundstrom and Trevor Moore during the 2020-21 season. He’s played a good amount of hockey with Grundstrom since then as well, providing some familiarity there. Should he play with Trevor Lewis, that’s as consistent a player as they come. Lewis is regularly referred to as an easy player to play with, because you know large in part what you’re going to get from him on a given night. Anderson-Dolan is comfortable with both players, should he be on that line.
“You just know what types of players they are, they don’t shift from that every night, they’re consistent,” Anderson-Dolan said of Grundstrom and Lewis. “Lewie’s been doing it for a long time and Carl has been around for awhile now too. I’ve had some experience with Carl and we’ve had some success in the past, so we’ll hopefully build on that if we play together tonight.”
The last spot start for Anderson-Dolan came on Thursday against Pittsburgh, when he filled in with Pierre-Luc Dubois and Arthur Kaliyev on the third line. While that line as a whole had a decent night, with Dubois putting in a strong showing, Anderson-Dolan didn’t feel that he had his best night individually. He thought he bobbled a few too many pucks he would’ve liked to control. Perhaps a harsh self evaluation of his first NHL game in a month, with just three AHL contests in between.
Still, though, there’s no moral victories and he’s looking to be better tonight.
“I didn’t think that was my best game, personally, I think I could have done more with that,” Anderson-Dolan said. “Looking to be a little bit better tonight. Just trying to build one step at a time here and not being in a bunch of games, the timing will come as the games come. There were a couple chances, but I definitely think I could have had more if I kept a few pucks alive.”
As always, for a player coming into the lineup, the name of the game is opportunity.
Another opportunity for Anderson-Dolan here tonight to make an impact. With the timeline for Lizotte’s return, it’s not exactly clear how long of an opportunity this could be. Could just be tonight. If that’s the case, it’s an opportunity that is there for the taking. He’s got a couple of target areas to try and impact the game and seize the moment as best as he can.
“Focusing on a shot-first mentality and obviously the physical side too, just trying to be on the scoresheet in that way and that gets you into the game,” he added. “Those are probably the two most important things.”
Kings looking to make it eight-straight victories on the road here in the early goings of the season. The Kings became the eighth team in NHL history to win their first seven road games, when they defeated Vegas earlier this month, and they’ll look for another win here tonight.