3/15 Preview – Kings looking to “simplify” their power play + 11/7 Expected, Talbot in net, Latest on Arvidsson

WHO: Los Angeles Kings (33-21-11) @ Chicago Blackhawks (18-43-5)
WHEN: Friday, March 15 @ 5:30 PM Pacific
WHERE: United Center – Chicago, IL
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: Bally Sports West – AUDIO – iHeart Radio – TWITTER: @DooleyLAK & @LAKings

TONIGHT’S MATCHUP: The Kings continue their three-game roadtrip this evening with their first game of the season against the Chicago Blackhawks.

HEAD-TO-HEAD: Forward Kevin Fiala led the Kings last season with three points (1-2-3) from three games played against Chicago, including a two-assist night here at United Center. Former Blackhawk Phillip Danault and forward Blake Lizotte each had two points (1-1-2) versus Chicago. Defenseman Andreas Englund played 11 games with Chicago last season after he was acquired at the trade deadline.

KINGS VITALS: The Kings held an off-ice workout yesterday and returned to the ice this morning for a full-team morning skate.

Head Coach Jim Hiller confirmed that Cam Talbot will be the starting goaltender this evening versus the Blackhawks. Talbot has faced Chicago 17 times throughout his career, posting a record of 9-7-1, with a .930 save percentage and a 2.18 goals-against average.

Here’s how the Kings aligned during today’s morning skate –

Byfield – Kopitar – Kempe
Moore – Danault – Fiala
Turcotte – Dubois – Laferriere
Kaliyev – Lizotte – Lewis

Anderson – Doughty
Gavrikov – Roy
Englund – Spence


For the Kings, forward Adrian Kempe took rushes this morning alongside Anze Kopitar and Quinton Byfield. The Kings utilized that look regularly in the third period against St. Louis and it’s obviously a familiar line for all three. In a corresponding move, Alex Turcotte moved alongside Pierre-Luc Dubois and Alex Laferriere, skating on the left wing. Hiller said today we should expect the 11/7 alignment again tonight, though it’s still a game-by-game feel right now and he doesn’t have a ton in the way of options. The Kings have just 19 skaters available right now, with Arthur Kaliyev the lone player who was scratched last game.

BLACKHAWKS VITALS: Chicago has scored seven goals in consecutive games and have won three of their last four entering tonight’s action.

Goaltender Arvid Soderblom is expected to get the nod for the hosts tonight at United Center. Soderblom has faced the Kings just once in his NHL career, as he made 32 saves on 33 shots in this building last season, a 2-1 overtime victory for the Blackhawks.

Per Ben Pope of the Chicago Sun Times, here’s how the Blackhawks are expected to align in tonight’s game –

Former Kings forward Andreas Athanasiou is expected to be in tonight’s lineup, as is forward Joey Anderson, brother of Kings defenseman Mikey Anderson. Forward Connor Bedard has 10 points (3-7-10) over the last four games, while defenseman Seth Jones leads all blueliners with seven points (3-4-7). Jones trails only Cale Makar in scoring during the month of March.

Notes –
Kings Focus On The PP
Five straight games for the Kings without a power-play goal.

It’s something that Jim Hiller foreshadowed a couple weeks back when the goals were actually flowing pretty decently. The Kings had slowly climbed their way into the top ten in the NHL on the man advantage and, on the surface, things seemed to be going well. In Hiller’s mind, though, it was not sustainable.

He saw a unit that was converting well enough, but was not executing as well as they did perhaps last season with regards to zone entries or in-zone puck chance creation. While in the moment, the goals were there, he felt the goals were masking deeper issues. Of late, we’ve seen some of those issues surface, with the Kings held off the scoreboard since the 5-1 win over New Jersey.

Here’s what Hiller said about a week ago, after the Kings scored their most recent power-play goal versus the Devils.

“Some of the things that make the power play go – the entries, chances – are probably not as efficient as we’d like them to be,” Hiller said. “What drives a power play and its efficiency is goals. We’re scoring goals, but on fewer chances. I’d like to see us getting in better, getting more chances. We’ll take the goals, but sooner or later, that’s going to catch up with you and I’d be saying the same thing if we weren’t scoring.”

That leads us into today, when the Kings know they’ll need to get something from their power play.

For defenseman Drew Doughty, who quarterbacks the top unit, he looks to simplify things when they aren’t going as they should. That’s the message heading into tonight.

“Just more urgency, more shots,” Doughty said. “Power play has been not good, that one game against Dallas, we’re up 1-0, we had a couple of power plays and we really didn’t gain any momentum and didn’t score a goal. We score when there and that game might’ve changed for us. So, we know it, the guys on the power play, we know we need to step up and be better on that, but I think it’s just getting back to the basics, just shoot the puck, have a guy at the net and keep it simple.”

Kevin Fiala shared similar sentiments.

When asked about his line at 5-on-5, which has been excellent, he pointed to the direct nature of how they’ve been playing. Pucks to the net, bodies to the net. He is hopeful that the general premise there can apply to what the Kings are doing on the power play as well.

“Just get more pucks on the net,” Fiala said. “Just get maybe getting set up also, helping on faceoffs so they don’t clear the puck, I think just helping on draws is the first step on a power play, win the faceoff and go from there, and like I said, get more shots.”

For Hiller, he generally agreed with his players.

First things first, he’s not looking to overreact to the recent struggles, but he is certainly aware of the recent struggles. He’s always been a power-play guy, so it’s an area he’s working on. Bottom line is, whether it be Hiller or the players, the Kings know they’ve got to deliver more in that area going forward.

“We’ve had the puck in their zone and had times we’ve just lost the puck, it’s been frustrating, it’s been a little while since we’ve scored,” Hiller said this morning. “They’ve done a good job over the last couple of years, so we’ve got to make sure we don’t overreact. I think, when it’s not going good, generally the approach is throw somebody in front of the net, get the puck there, get a greasy one and start the conference all over again.”

Quick Hitters –
– The Kings did not practice on their off day in Chicago, opting for an off-ice session instead.

It’s been a bit of a theme under Jim Hiller. When the Kings practice, they practice hard. On days where rest is prioritized, the team stays off the ice, getting what they need in other ways and saving their energy for game time.

“If you look ahead, we’ve got tonight, we get in late to Dallas, flying in with the 7:30 game,” Hiller said. “We’re trying to do as much as we can to make sure that, when the puck gets dropped on the ice, it gives us our best chance to win.”

It’s a bit of a different approach than we saw earlier in the season, when the Kings were more likely to skate on those in between days, albeit for less time. For Hiller, it’s something he’s set in place from the beginning, with more days off the ice, but perhaps a bit more intensity during practices when they do happen. The hope is that the Kings will have their energy tonight and tomorrow in Dallas, with the practice schedule just one thing that can hopefully help in that area.

– St. Louis had the Gretzky-off and Chicago has an Anderson-off!

Mikey Anderson will play tonight against his brother Joey at United Center. The Andersons have only played against each other once in their respective NHL careers, back in 2020. Mikey made his NHL debut at home with Joey’s Devils in town. That was certainly a special moment and now they’ll play against each other again tonight, in what could be the first of three meetings here over the next month.

The Anderson parents, Gerry and Dana, will be at tonight’s game to take in a rare opportunity to see both of their sons playing on the same sheet of ice, as they did at Minnesota Duluth in the 2017-18 season. Fun night ahead for all involved.

– Lastly, Hiller also provided the following update on injured forward Viktor Arvidsson.

“He’s getting closer. He’s still back home right now, skating with our staff, but we’re pretty optimistic that we’re going to see him soon.”

Arvidsson is eligible to return from LTIR in short order and General Manager Rob Blake said that Arvidsson’s timeline to return was pretty close to that LTIR mandated time. Wouldn’t be surprised to see Arvidsson shed the non-contact jersey in his first practice back with the team and hopefully, assuming all continues to go according to plan, we could see Arvidsson in the mix when the Kings return to Los Angeles for three games at home next week.

5:30 PM Pacific time tonight from Chicago! Big opportunity to get two more points in the bank, with a very difficult end to the trip tomorrow in Dallas. Got to get them while you can and the Kings would do well to get a result here tonight.

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