4/18 Preview – Playoff Scenarios Detailed + Kings Situation, Focal Points in Game 82, Kempe on MVP, AHL All-Stars

WHO: Los Angeles Kings (43-27-11) vs. Chicago Blackhawks (23-53-5)
WHEN: Thursday, April 18 @ 7:30 PM Pacific
WHERE: Crypto.com Arena – Los Angeles, CA
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: Bally Sports West – AUDIO – iHeart Radio – TWITTER: @DooleyLAK & @LAKings

TONIGHT’S MATCHUP: The LA Kings hit the ice tonight for Game 82, as the regular season concludes on home ice against Chicago.

HEAD-TO-HEAD: Anze Kopitar has scored four goals from the two prior games against Chicago this season, while Adrian Kempe has five assists. Just one player around the NHL ranks ahead of either player, respectively, on the season to date. In total, nine Kings have multiple points versus the Blackhawks entering tonight’s action.

KINGS VITALS: The Kings held a highly optional morning skate today, following yesterday’s full-team practice day.

Not sure on tonight’s starter in net, but history would indicate Cam Talbot between the pipes tonight, after he did not skate this morning, while David Rittich did. Should Talbot get the nod, he brings with him a record of 11-7-1, with a .933 save percentage and a 2.05 goals-against average. Should Rittich start, he has five career appearances versus the Blackhawks and carries a record of 3-1-0, with a .875 save percentage and a 3.42 goals-against average.

Here’s how the Kings lined up during yesterday’s practice –

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

Anderson – Doughty
Gavrikov – Roy
Englund – Spence

Rittich / Talbot

Jim Hiller has maintained since the Kings clinched a playoff berth that the team would not rest players unless there was an injury situation. He reinforced that point yesterday, noting that there are “no plans to rest anybody” in tonight’s game.

On the ice this morning were forwards Viktor Arvidsson, Alex Turcotte and Arthur Kaliyev, along with defenseman Jacob Moverare.

Should Turcotte check in, after a strong practice yesterday in his return from an AHL conditioning loan, it would be his first game since March 19, when he suffered an upper-body injury in a game that was also against Chicago here at home.

Moverare and Kaliyev were the team’s healthy scratches last time out versus Minnesota on Monday. No indication on Arvidsson, but should the Kings opt to hold him out, it would make sense considering his injury history this season.

BLACKHAWKS VITALS: Chicago is also playing its final game of the regular season, entering tonight off of five consecutive defeats.

Petr Mrazek has started his team’s last two games but it’s Arvid Soderblom who is expected to get the nod in tonight’s season finale for the visitors. Soderblom has faced the Kings twice throughout his NHL career, posting a 1-1-0 record, with a .894 save percentage and a 3.96 goals-against average.

Per Ben Pope of the Chicago Sun Times, here’s how the Blackhawks lined up on Tuesday in Vegas –

Chicago’s lineup features former Kings forward Andreas Athanasiou, as well as current Kings sibling Joey Anderson, brother of Mikey. Forwards Phillip Kurashev (8-12-20) and Connor Bedard (5-15-20) are both scoring at a point-per-game pace over their last 20 games played. Bedard has averaged 20:49 over that stretch, 15th highest amongst forwards around the NHL.

Notes –
Playoff Scenarios

With the Dallas Stars defeating St. Louis yesterday evening, playoff possibilities narrowed for the Kings. Dallas clinched the number-one seed in the Western Conference, which eliminated the possibility of the Kings playing Vancouver in Round 1. Now, it’s down to two potential opponents – Dallas and Edmonton.

The percentages certainly suggest Dallas. Between Money Puck and PlayoffStatus.com, the numbers suggest between an 80 – 82 percent chance of the Kings facing the Stars in Round 1, with the other 18 – 20 percent pointing towards Kings versus Oilers, Part 3.

With Monday’s loss versus Minnesota, the Kings no longer control their destiny with regards to where they’re heading, but their result tonight could still play a part in determining destination. The Vegas Golden Knights host Anaheim tonight at 7 PM, while the Kings host Chicago at 7:30 PM.

Should the Kings pick up more points than the Golden Knights, the Kings would head to Edmonton. Any other scenario, with the teams earning the same number of points, or Vegas earning more, would send the Kings to Dallas for Round 1. Pretty simple.

With Vegas coming to a close before the Kings, the Kings could know their destination during their game, likely at the start of or early in the third period. Jim Hiller acknowledged that he and the staff will have an eye on the Vegas / Chicago tilt, even if it’s not the primary focus.

“We have to do what we do for sure, but we will have an eye on things, like we have I think this last month,” Hiller said. “We’ve been scoreboard watching, just like everybody else because the games have been so exciting. So, we’ll have an eye on it but it won’t be our primary focus.”

From a Kings perspective, there was a lot of disappointment surrounding Monday’s performance, but there’s admittedly a natural element of letdown following a clinch. It’s proven difficult to manufacture intensity for the Kings over the last couple games and the results and performances have mirrored that in some ways. There hasn’t been nothing to play for, but with the playoffs secured and home ice in Round 1 out of reach, I think there’s clearly been a letdown here

Without control over what happens at T-Mobile Arena, the Kings have to keep their primary focus on what they’re doing. They want to feel good going into the postseason.

Hiller shared yesterday that the Kings have begun to introduce playoff-specific things into the team’s practice plan, with certain elements of yesterday’s practice being playoff-driven, not Chicago driven. Hiller said that he wants the team to just go out and play, with certain specific things for the playoffs a part of the gameplan. It is important to execute, though, and that’s what the players are focusing on.

Execute in a variety of different areas, hopefully see them come into form and leave Game 82 feeling good, with the playoffs up next.

“A lot of things [to focus on], I think 5-on-5 is going to be the most important thing,” forward Adrian Kempe said this morning. “Being on the same page, everyone, the lines looked a bit differently, so we’ll see what the lines are going to look like tonight, but you’ve just got to get the chemistry going again, talk out there, just all the small things, try to do those as well as we can, being aggressive. You work on the stuff that we’ve talked about the last couple of weeks, pushing the pace, all that, tracking……it’s going to be a good challenge for us. Hopefully we can. I believe we can go out there and do a good job.”

For us watching, it’s probably one eye on what’s happening in Los Angeles and the second on the game on the strip.

Quick Hitters
– It meant something to Adrian Kempe to be named as the Kings MVP, as voted on by the media. More on Award Winners HERE.

For Kempe, he enters the day tied for the team lead in scoring and has already set career highs in assists and points. Kempe established himself as a high-level goalscorer in the NHL over the last two years and he’s rounded out his game here this season by establishing himself as a high-level offensive hockey player.

Always humble, he admitted he might not have voted for himself, but it meant something to him that he was the player selected for that honor.

“Means a lot to me,” he said this morning. “I don’t personally think that I maybe deserve it, but I’m happy you guys obviously think differently. I really appreciate that. I think it’s just trying to do the things right, consistently night in and night out.”

Jim Hiller laid out numerous areas what he considers to be “valuable” and added that Kempe fits all of those boxes. Not only is he productive, but he plays in all situations, is a leader on and off the ice and is a “trustworthy” player. Certainly sounds pretty valuable to me.

– Forward Samuel Fagemo and defenseman Brandt Clarke were named today to the AHL’s Second All-Star team.

Fagemo set the Ontario single-season record for goals scored in a season, with 42 from just 49 games played. The Goteborg, Sweden native also has the team record for power play goals with 19, as well as 10 game-winning goals. His power play and game-winning goal totals are the most in the AHL while his overall goal number ranks second, just two behind Springfield’s Adam Gaudette who has 44 while playing in 16 additional games. The 19 power play goals scored are the most in the league since Chris Terry matched the number for St. John’s during the 2016-17 season.

Clarke ranks fifth among all AHL defenders with 44 points during his rookie campaign on 10 goals and 34 assists. Clarke’s 0.92 points per game average in 48 contests this year is the highest of any blueliner in the league. Clarke’s assist total is sixth-best among defenders, currently tied for the most among rookies, while his 16 power play points (3-13=16) rank as the eighth-most on the back end. The award comes in addition to being named to the AHL’s All-Rookie Team on Wednesday, representing the Pacific Division at the AHL All-Star Classic in February and claiming the league’s Rookie of the Month award for December.

Good stuff for both players, who have excelled with the AHL club and will hopefully drive Ontario through a playoff run of their own.

For tonight, it’s the regular-season finale. Kings and Blackhawks. Playoff information to follow tonight’s game, either tonight or tomorrow morning, with scheduling and everything else available with regards to timing and TV coverage.

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