2/27 Preview – No Morning Skate + 5-on-5 Scoring, Minute Distribution, Potential Lineups & Vitals

WHO: Los Angeles Kings (29-18-10) @ Edmonton Oilers (28-25-5)
WHEN: Tuesday, February 27 @ 6:00 PM Pacific
WHERE: Scotiabank Saddledome – Calgary, AB
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: Bally Sports West – AUDIO – iHeart Radio – TWITTER: @DooleyLAK & @LAKings

TONIGHT’S MATCHUP: The Kings are in Calgary for the second half of a back-to-back set in Alberta, their first away contest of the season versus the Flames.

HEAD-TO-HEAD: Forward Quinton Byfield scored twice when these teams met in Los Angeles back in December, while defenseman Drew Doughty and forward Anze Kopitar each tallied two assists. Over the last five seasons, Kopitar has 13 points (3-10-13) from 12 games played against the Flames.

KINGS VITALS: The Kings are on the second half of a back-to-back, so naturally they did not skate this morning in Calgary.

Goaltender David Rittich got the nod last night in Edmonton, which points towards Cam Talbot between the pipes tonight in Calgary against his former club. Talbot has faced the Flames 16 times throughout his professional career, with an all-time record of 10-5-0, a .915 save percentage and a 2.58 goals-against average.

Last night’s lineup in Edmonton is embedded below, for reference –

Regarding tonight’s lineup, we likely won’t know more until closer to puck drop tonight.

Forward Adrian Kempe left last night’s game in Edmonton in the final minutes and did not return. Head Coach Jim Hiller did not have an update after the game, but should Kempe not be able to go tonight, as reports have suggested, forward Alex Turcotte is available to check into the lineup, as is defenseman Brandt Clarke on the backend.

For what it’s worth, Hiller has said that he is open to an 11-7 alignment if the situation calls for it.

“I don’t think that’s something we will shy from, if we have to go 11-7 from time-to-time, we’ll do that. It’ll all be based on lineup and who is healthy.”

This was not a quote based on today’s game specifically, so we’ll wait a few hours to learn for sure how the Kings could align here in Calgary. Wouldn’t be surprised to see it go either way. Hiller is slated to address media at the rink in a few hours.

FLAMES VITALS: Calgary enters tonight’s game on a three-game winning streak, most recently a 6-3 victory over Edmonton last time out on Saturday.

Should the Flames opt to deploy usual starting goaltender Jacob Markstrom, he would be in line for his 20th career appearance against the Kings. Markstrom has a career record versus LA of 10-5-4 to date, with a .913 save percentage and a 2.91 goals-against average.

Per Pat Steinberg of Sportsnet 960, here’s how the Flames lined up during yesterday’s practice –

Calgary has three players with 20+ goals entering tonight’s game – Blake Coleman, Nazem Kadri and Yegor Sharangovich. Only three teams in the NHL have more. Calgary enters tonight’s action ranking fifth in the NHL on the penalty kill this season at 82.8 percent but third-to-last on the power play at 14.5 percent.

Notes –
Jackson 5(-on-5)
In their first eight games coming out of the All-Star break, the Kings had seen a pattern of success on the power play, with a lack of scoring at 5-on-5.

Last night in Edmonton, it was the opposite problem. Jim Hiller and Anze Kopitar both felt that the turning point versus the Oilers came midway through the second period, when the Kings had an extended power-play sequence, including 24 seconds of 5-on-3 time. The man advantage came after the Kings took a 2-1 lead and it could have provided an opportunity to double that lead.

Of late, the Kings power play has rarely been a problem. Kevin Fiala alone had a three-game power-play goal streak entering last night’s game and the Kings have scored eight power-play goals since the All-Star break, with only three teams burying more. In fairness, that sequence represented the only two power-play opportunities the Kings had all night. Regardless, it was a pivotal moment in the game.

Before last night’s game, though, the Kings had scored just nine goals at 5-on-5 in the eight games since the All-Star break. Make that 11 from nine after Trevor Moore and Alex Laferriere buried in Edmonton.

Really, it hasn’t hurt the Kings……yet. They’ve posted a record of 6-3-0 in those games, so no harm no foul thus far, but that’s not a pace that will hold up throughout the remainder of the season. In the same time, the Kings have allowed 15 goals 5-on-5, though six came from the Buffalo game. So, that one game aside, 5-on-5 defense has actually been quite good overall. It’s the offensive end where the Kings have fallen short.

“After Christmas, New Year’s, it always gets a little bit tighter on the ice,” forward Phillip Danault said. “We’ve seen some crazy scores, 9-2, but not for us. I think we’re more focused on the defensive game and winning those tight games like 2-1, and we have been, but obviously we want to score more goals at 5-on-5, that’s for sure.”

Since the break, 1.55 goals per/60 at 5-on-5 ranks last in the NHL With a shooting percentage of just 4.6%, the Kings are also in sole possession of 32nd in that area.

If you look at the chances the Kings have created from a wider lens, while it’s not the early-season totals which were atop or near the top of the NHL, they’ve certainly been much better than they’ve gotten rewarded for. In terms of volume, the Kings rank fifth in the NHL in shot attempts per/60 since the All-Star break. They also rank eighth in scoring chances.

In terms of high-danger chances, though, the Kings rank 20th in the NHL. So, you could argue chance quality, but the Kings should still be scoring more than they have, based on the chances they’re getting. The key for this group right now is getting to the blue paint offensively. It’s when they’ve had that success and what they aspire to continue towards.

“I think we have to have someone at the net, that’s something we’ve been working on a lot,” forward Jaret Anderson-Dolan said. “Every team does [a good job of boxing out], so it’s just that extra effort to get there……if you keep doing the right thing, those chances will come.”

Anderson-Dolan added that getting to the net more regularly has been a point of emphasis under Hiller.

So, at the end of the day, what does it come down to? Is it creating more high-danger chances? Is it more polish or better finishing on the chances the Kings are getting? Is it getting more traffic on the shots the Kings are getting? Is it a matter of luck, whether that be facing hot goaltenders or simply not getting the bounces or the puck luck that comes around eventually? The strategy certainly can’t be to rely on the latter two. The focus right now is on generating more offensively in those situations, but not cheating in order to do so.

“You’ve got to take some risks, but calculated risks, you can’t cheat too much,” “Danault added. “It’s been working well for us, we don’t cheat to get rewarded.”

They’ll have to do so with an understaffed lineup, which means that others will need to step up. With Viktor Arvidsson on long-term injured reserve and Adrian Kempe’s status and timeline unknown at this time, the Kings aren’t in a position where they can accept a lull, injuries or not. Got to find a way through, with the personnel who are available.

Minute Distribution
Last night against Edmonton, the Kings got their first goal from a seldomly used combination of Quinton Byfield – Pierre-Luc Dubois – Trevor Moore.

After last night’s game, the explanation was more situational than anything else. Moore had missed his last shift, after Alex Laferriere was caught out for a longer shift. Around a media timeout, Jim Hiller opted to use Moore, who was “fresh” as the third member of the Dubois/Byfield unit.

“I haven’t played a lot with PL or Q, they’re both obviously very good players,” Moore said. “We have a lot of those and it’s fun to mix it up.”

In his nine games at the helm, Hiller hasn’t been shy to “mix it up”.

While last night was relatively tame, compared to what we’ve seen in previous games, when things aren’t going well, Hiller is willing to make adjustments in an effort to get things going. While the pairings and combinations do affect players at the top of the lineup, it’s perhaps more impactful on the players towards the bottom of the lineup.

When a depth player is going well, Hiller has shown he’s willing to bump that individual’s icetime up and get them more shifts in a more compact period of time.

“I think he does a good job of, when there’s a guy feeling it, he’s in the game, he rides him a little bit,” forward Blake Lizotte said. “Once he runs out of gas, it’s up to the next guy, which I think guys mostly like.”

Lizotte is a player in that role and we saw even last night how he’s impacted.

If you look at last night’s game, Lizotte has four shifts in the first eight minutes of the third period, before the Kings shortened the bench. His line brought a lot of energy when the Kings trailed 3-2 and played more regularly as a result. He played later while shorthanded, but at 5-on-5, his line was going well early, they played more, but were scaled back late in different situations.

“If you’re going to play ten minutes, you play your ten minutes in two and a half periods, or two periods, versus your ten minutes intermittently throughout the whole game,” Lizotte added. “I think you almost feel more involved for your ten minutes, if you’re going every third shift. That helps guys stay in the game when their name is called.”

An interesting approach.

In Calgary, on the second half of a back-to-back, the Kings will need all four lines contributing, so that includes added minutes from depth players. Something to keep an eye on as we progress.

Rules for Blog Commenting

  • No profanity, slurs or other offensive language. Replacing letters with symbols does not turn expletives into non-expletives.
  • Personal attacks against other blog commenters, and/or blatant attempts to antagonize other comments, are not tolerated. Respectful disagreement is encouraged. Posts that continually express the same singular opinion will be deleted.
  • Comments that incite political, religious or similar debates will be deleted.
  • Please do not discuss, or post links to websites that illegally stream NHL games.
  • Posting under multiple user names is not allowed. Do not type in all caps. All violations are subject to comment deletion and/or banning of commenters, per the discretion of the blog administrator.

Repeated violations of the blog rules will result in site bans, commensurate with the nature and number of offenses.

Please flag any comments that violate the site rules for moderation. For immediate problems regarding problematic posts, please email zdooley@lakings.com.