2/26 Preview – “Four-Point Game” Ahead + Intensity Rises in Edmonton, Moverare Checks In

WHO: Los Angeles Kings (29-17-10) @ Edmonton Oilers (33-20-2)
WHEN: Monday, February 26 @ 6:30 PM Pacific
WHERE: Rogers Place – Edmonton, AB
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: Bally Sports West – AUDIO – iHeart Radio – TWITTER: @DooleyLAK & @LAKings

TONIGHT’S MATCHUP: The Kings begin a three-game roadtrip later on this evening, as they visit the Edmonton Oilers for the first time since the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

HEAD-TO-HEAD: The Kings picked up three points from their first two games against Edmonton this season, most recently via a 4-0 win at Crypto.com Arena earlier this month. Forward Quinton Byfield leads the Kings this season with four points (2-2-4) from the first two meetings of the season, while forward Adrian Kempe has three (1-2-3). Including postseason games, no player has more points against the Oilers than Kempe over the last three seasons.

KINGS VITALS: The Kings traveled into Edmonton yesterday and held another full-team morning skate this morning at Rogers Place.

Look for goaltender David Rittich to get the net for his third consecutive start, after he was the first netminder off this morning in Edmonton. Rittich has faced the Oilers 12 times throughout his NHL career, posting a record of 5-4-1, with a .908 save percentage and a 2.59 goals-against average.

Based on today’s morning skate, here’s a look at how the Kings could line up this evening in Edmonton –

Laferriere – Kopitar – Kempe
Moore – Danault – Fiala
Byfield – Dubois – Kaliyev
Anderson-Dolan – Lizotte – Lewis

Gavrikov – Doughty
Moverare – Roy
Englund – Spence


Today’s skate suggested one change from Saturday’s lineup against Anaheim, with defenseman Jacob Moverare appearing likely to check in for defenseman Brandt Clarke. Jim Hiller was complimentary of his fourth line’s performance, with that trio likely to remain intact. Should the Kings opt for any additional movement, forward Alex Turcotte is ready and available this evening in Alberta.

OILERS VITALS: Edmonton has dropped the first three games of a five-game homestand, with a record of 0-2-1 entering tonight’s contest.

Look for usual starting goaltender Stuart Skinner to get the nod between the pipes in tonight’s game against the Kings. Skinner has faced the Kings six times in the regular season throughout his career to date, with a record of 3-2-0, a .936 save percentage and a 2.04 goals-against average.

Per Daniel Nugent-Bowman of The Athletic, here’s how the hosts lined up this morning at Rogers Place –

Entering tonight’s game, Edmonton forward Zach Hyman is fourth in the NHL this season in goals (37) and tied for third in even-strength goals (26). Oilers blueliner Evan Bouchard has 14 goals of his own, tied for second in the league amongst defensemen, one shy of the league lead.

Notes –
All Square
Entering tonight’s game, the Kings and Oilers are tied at 68 points for the final playoff spot in the Pacific Division. Pretty exciting way to start a trip.

“Those are the games, that’s why you play hockey, it’s like a playoff game tonight, a four-point game,” forward Phillip Danault said. “We always look forward to these games.”

Now, it’s not as do or die as it seems. Whichever team loses tonight would still be in possession of the first Wild Card position, with a 2-3 point advantage with games in hand over Nashville, which occupies the second position, and a few more points over the “next team out” conglomerate in the Western Conference.

Regardless, though, it’s a big game. The Kings and Oilers both sit just three points behind the Vegas Golden Knights, with multiple games in hand. The Golden Knights currently hold home-ice advantage in Round 1 and that position is attainable for both clubs.

So, while it’s still just February and there are still 25 games remaining for the Kings after tonight’s game, it’s a big one here at Rogers Place.

“It feels like a playoff game any time you play these guys, with the history of the past two years,” forward Jaret Anderson-Dolan said. “They’re fun games to play in, this is an exciting building, the fans are always into it, I feel like especially against us. You always get up a little bit extra for these games.”

With that in mind, the Kings know they’ll need to be much better tonight than they were on their most recent homestand. It’s a homestand when the Kings went 2-1-0 and since we’re measuring this team against wins and losses, it was a good homestand on that front. But wins over Columbus and Anaheim – two teams towards the bottom of the standings – saw the Kings get results without their best.

As the competition heats up on this trip, beginning tonight in Edmonton, they know they’ll need to deliver at a higher level than they did on Saturday to find results.

“We just have to find a way to win against these opponents,” defenseman Matt Roy added. “These are big games coming up for us and we know that, so we need to come prepared.”

For Jim Hiller, it’s his first time as the team’s Head Coach here in Western Canada. He was apart of the Kings/Oilers series a season ago as an assistant, but he’s never led the team into Edmonton, Calgary or Vancouver, all of which he will do over the next three days.

He knows tonight will be an intense game, between two teams battling for a playoff berth.

“I won’t look too far ahead, I’ll look at tonight and there will be plenty of intensity in this game tonight,” Hiller said. “We got them the last game, I thought we played pretty well. They’re a strong offensive team, they’re going to be coming tonight, we know that.”

Expecting nothing less, when the Kings and Oilers meet.

Big Tuna Time
Look for defenseman Jacob Moverare to check into the lineup tonight in Edmonton.

Talk about throwing him right into the moment. Not his first trip around the league, though, as he played meaningful games down the stretch during the 2021-22 season. When the Kings were shorthanded on the backend, Moverare was a part of a group of defensemen that helped steer the Kings into the postseason, a stretch that included him playing a game in Edmonton. Tonight, he’ll step into the lineup at Rogers Place in a matchup between two teams tied for the final spot in the Pacific Division. He’s certainly looking forward to it.

“It’s more fun now, at the end of the season, every game matters,” Moverare said this morning. “Obviously they do at the start too, but a little bit more now, when everybody can see how it’s going to shake out. It’s just more fun, competitive games are always fun.”

Especially on night one, an important thing for Moverare is to just play his own game.

It’s something that he’s generally done a good job of with the Kings. In the AHL, Moverare isn’t necessarily an offensive defenseman, but his point totals are a bit higher, as he averaged just shy of 0.5 points-per-game. He played in more situations too, including 3-on-3, where he scored an overtime game winner last week. With the Kings, Moverare is certainly capable of making plays, but he’s also trying to play within his own skin. In tonight’s game, that’s all anyone is looking for.

“Trying to play pretty similar,” Moverare said of his NHL game compared to his AHL game. “Just trying to read the game and be in good positions. I think my positioning will be huge for me, just trying to be in the right spots against Edmonton.”

One thing that helps to make Moverare comfortable is the fact that he’ll likely slot in next to Matt Roy on the team’s second defensive pairing, at least to start the game. It’s the same role he filled when Vladislav Gavrikov was out earlier this season and he’s played a lot with Roy throughout his time in the NHL. Moverare and Roy have played just shy of 100 minutes together at 5-on-5 throughout Moverare’s career and he’s comfortable playing alongside the reliable Michigan native.

“It helps a lot, because I think he’s comfortable with my game, which helps me, than always having a new partner,” Moverare said this morning. “It definitely helps.”

Jim Hiller noted that over the last few weeks, Moverare’s game with the AHL’s Ontario Reign has been quite good.

Hiller also has the book on Moverare from earlier this season, when he filled in for Gavrikov and did so reliably. Moverare is a player who plays within himself. He knows who he is and he plays his game. That’s what he’s done at the AHL level, that’s what he did with the Kings earlier this season and that’s what the Kings are hopeful to get here tonight.

“He’s got enough experience that we’ll trust him and he’ll get some good minutes tonight,” Hiller said of Moverare. “He just has to be himself. For any young defenseman coming in, you can’t try to make a big impact right away, you’ve just got to play your game, play it clean and when there’s an opportunity, make a play. Otherwise, if you’re not allowing anything the other way, the coach is usually pretty happy with your game.”

Good tilt on the docket tonight, as the Kings look to return to the top of their game on the road, where they’ve thrived so far this season. 6:30 PM Pacific time, 7:30 PM local.

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