3/30 Preview – Arvidsson w/ Kopitar & Kempe + Thoughts on Line Changes, Morning Skate Notes, 15 NHL Games

WHO: Los Angeles Kings (38-23-11) @ Calgary Flames (33-34-5)
WHEN: Saturday, March 30 @ 7:00 PM Pacific
WHERE: Scotiabank Saddledome – Calgary, AB
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: KCAL, Ch. 9 – AUDIO – iHeart Radio – TWITTER: @DooleyLAK & @LAKings

TONIGHT’S MATCHUP: Two more important points on the line tonight for the Kings, as they visit Calgary for the final time this season.

HEAD-TO-HEAD: Forward Quinton Byfield is the only King with multiple goals against the Flames so far this season, while forward Anze Kopitar (1-2-3) and defenseman Drew Doughty (0-3-3) each have three points as well. Doughty has seven points (1-6-7) from seven games played against Calgary over the last three seasons, tied for the third most in the NHL during that stretch.

KINGS VITALS: The Kings opted not to practice yesterday, which led into a full-team morning skate here today in Calgary.

Goaltender David Rittich was off the ice first this morning, which points to him as tonight’s starter in net against his former club. Rittich has just one career start against the Flames, with two total appearances, which both resulted in an overtime loss.

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

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

Anderson – Doughty
Gavrikov – Roy
Englund – Spence

Rittich / Talbot

With the full-team skate, we got a good sense of a potential lineup for tonight. The Kings made some in-game adjustments during Thursday’s loss against the Oilers and kept up with a couple of them here this morning. Viktor Arvidsson remained up with Anze Kopitar and Adrian Kempe, while Quinton Byfield skated with Pierre-Luc Dubois and Trevor Lewis.

Regarding forward Carl Grundstrom, he was back in a full-contact jersey for the second straight morning skate, but was on late for extra work, indicating he’s not quite ready to go just yet. Defenseman Jacob Moverare was also on late but he is an option to go should he be needed. Will likely need to wait until closer to game time to know for sure, but expecting the 12/6 as shown above.

FLAMES VITALS: Calgary has lost five consecutive games entering tonight’s meeting with the Kings, most recently a 5-3 defeat against St. Louis on Thursday night.

For the hosts, goaltender Jacob Markstrom is expected to get the start in net tonight against the Kings. Markstrom has faced LA 20 times to date throughout his professional career, bringing with him a record of 11-5-4, alongside a .913 save percentage and a 2.86 goals-against average.

Per Pat Steinberg of Sportsnet 960, here’s how the Flames lined up this morning –

Forward Andrew Mangiapane and defenseman Oliver Kylington did not play on Thursday for the Flames, though Kylington appears to be back in the lineup here tonight. Forward Blake Coleman leads the Flames this season with three goals from two games played against the Kings. Though not expected to start tonight, former LA Jr. King Dustin Wolf is expected to be the backup goaltender in tonight’s game.

Notes –
Nice To Have Options

When Viktor Arvidsson returned to the LA Kings lineup earlier this month, Jim Hiller was posed a question about where he might deploy him in the lineup.

The question was asked in the spirit of if it was almost a problem of where to slot him in, based on his versatility in lining up in different places and the continuity other lines have created in his absence. The answer spun the question around a bit. It’s not a problem, it’s options.

“I don’t look at it as a challenge at all, I look at it as options,” Hiller said at the time. “You have good, healthy players in your lineup, it just gives you more options to think about, who with who, why, who complements who. Maybe a mental challenge, I guess, but you’re happy about that.”

Today, Hiller was posed a similar question.

This morning, we saw Arvidsson lined up alongside Anze Kopitar and Adrian Kempe, a combination we saw during the third period in Edmonton on Thursday. It’s a line the Kings put together in Game 6 of last season’s playoffs, a line that had a really strong night in the eventual defeat.

With regards to how Arvidsson fits on that line, it’s one of the many options on the table that he’s been most eager to try. Tonight, we’ll likely get our first look at it right from the opening faceoff.

“Three dangerous offensive players, we know that about Viktor for sure, so it’s just another look,” Hiller said. “We’ve talked about that for a long time, putting those three together, haven’t had the chance because of Arvy’s injury situation. We’ll see where it goes tonight, but we want to just get a closer look at that.”

Those three haven’t played together a ton so far this season, but the limited sample size has been positive.

They’ve played 9:48 together this season at even strength, controlling shot attempts by a 17-5 margin, scoring chances 12-3 and high-danger chances 6-1.

While we should know by now that the way the team looks during morning skate, or even to start a game, isn’t how they may finish it, it certainly appears to be a combination the Kings are interested in seeing. Hiller made clear as much. For Arvidsson, he’s excited about playing there, assuming that’s how the Kings look tonight.

“It’s great, they’re two smart players, great players, so I’m just trying to play my game and help them and us as a line as much as possible,” Arvidsson said of the new look. “

In his minutes this season, Arvidsson first skated with Phillip Danault and Trevor Moore on a line we’ve seen a ton of when all three have been healthy. Until Edmonton, he was with Pierre-Luc Dubois and Alex Laferriere on a line that showed a lot of promise, especially in their first few games together.

On a night when the Kings went down by a few goals, it gave Hiller the chance to mix things up. This particular combination is one he’s wanted to see for some time now. It moves Byfield into a place he’s been successful, alongside Dubois, with Trevor Lewis providing a playoff-style of player who is defensively responsible as the third member.

When paired together, Byfield and Dubois have controlled 60 percent of high-danger chances and just shy of 63 percent of scoring chances. One of the best pairings for Dubois so far this season, which could make this particular swap one that benefits all parties.

All-in-all, this is a group of forwards that has shown comfort and willingness to move around as needed. Hiller joked that “they better be” with the way he shuffles the lines around.

“There’s a lot of veteran players, they’ve played left wing, they’ve played right wing, they’re pretty comfortable [moving around],” he added. “We usually talk to them about it a little bit, just to fill them in on what we’re thinking, but we haven’t had any issues with any of that.”

From the perspective of the players, it’s something they believe this group excels in.

Everyone is comfortable, for the most part, playing with everybody. That makes it even easier to move the pieces around as needed.

“I haven’t been around all season, but all of our players have shown that,” Arvidsson added. “I think we have some different looks that we can show.”

Quick Hitters
– 15 NHL games on the docket throughout the day, around the NHL.

Regarding the teams in and around the Kings in the Western Conference standings, Vegas is already in action for a matinee game against the Minnesota Wild, who remain on the fringes of the Western Conference playoff picture themselves. Edmonton hosts Anaheim at 3 PM Pacific, while Nashville visits Colorado two hours later. In the later slate of games, Winnipeg hosts Ottawa, St. Louis hosts San Jose and Seattle hosts Dallas.

For the Kings, it’s still first and foremost about what they’re doing, but the games around them for those of us not playing within the glass are ones that we pay attention to and regularly react to. As we saw on Thursday, Kings results and other results can shift the playoff picture on a day-to-day basis, especially here with ten games left to play.

“We’ve just got to play and win, we can’t really control what’s going on on the other side, we can just control what we’re doing,” Hiller said. “We can control what we’re doing and what we’re trying to do.”

Only two points are available for the Kings to claim tonight at the Saddledome, but it’s a day to keep an eye on with every other playoff contender in the West also in action.

– Lastly, defenseman Jacob Moverare remains with the big club for now.

He was assigned to the AHL in advance of Thursday’s game in Edmonton and recalled on Friday morning. He took the morning skate today with the team was was on a bit later than those who looked set to play in tonight’s game.

For now, it does not appear as if he will go tonight, but he’s here with the team and could check in if needed. He could also be re-assigned to the AHL later in the day if he’s not needed. We’ll see how it goes and keep an eye out on social media for a potential roster move should there be one.

8 PM local puck drop here tonight in Calgary between the Kings and Flames, 7 PM Pacific time. A few changes for the Kings, as they look to control what they can control.

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