Thursday, 27 March 2014

Preview: Kings @ Penguins, 27/3

Form Book

Los Angeles Kings 

42-25-6, 90 Points, 3rd in Pacific Division. 21-12-3 on Road. 7-3-0 in Last 10

Last Game: Los Angeles 5-4 Washington (SO) 

LA came back from 3-1 down to take the lead in the third-period, only for highly touted prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov’s first career NHL goal to tie the game with 42 seconds remaining in regulation. Jonathan Quick stopped Kuznetsov and Eric Fehr in the shootout while Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter scored to win it for the Kings.


46-21-5, 97 Points, 1st in Metropolitan Division. 26-7-2 at Home. 5-4-1 in Last 10

Last Game: Phoenix 3-2 Penguins

After twice trading goals in the first period, the Pens were unable to find an answer to a Mikkel Boedker goal midway through the second period. Phoenix’s winner came just as Jussi Jokinen stepped back on the ice after serving an ill advised retaliatory penalty taken in the offensive zone. Recently porous defensive pairing Rob Scuderi and Brooks Orpik were on the ice for that goal and Shane Doan’s earlier power play goal.

Previous Meeting: Penguins 4-1 Kings

Jussi Jokinen had three points (1G, 2A) and Jeff Zatkoff stopped 30 shots as three Penguins goals in the first period chased Jonathan Quick early.

Team Stats & Rankings

Kings                                     Penguins  

2.38  (27th)  Goals For Per Game          3.04  (5th)      
2.07  (T-1st) Goals Against Per Game      2.47  (10th)
1.25  (5th)   5-on-5 For/Against Ratio    1.07  (10th)
15.1% (25th)  Power Play                  24.4% (1st)
83.0% (11th)  Penalty Kill                85.8% (2nd)
31.6  (7th)   Shots For Per Game          30.1  (14th)
26.4  (3rd)   Shots Allowed Per Game      28.8  (9th) 
+5.2          Shot Differential Per Game  +1.3

Stat Leaders Comparison

Crosby        95          Points        59      Kopitar
Crosby        34           Goals        25      Carter
Crosby        61          Assists       37      Kopitar
Niskanen      +31       Plus/Minus     +27      Kopitar
Crosby       22:01      TOI Avg (F)   21:02     Kopitar
Niskanen*    21:14      TOI Avg (D)   25:59     Doughty

Probable Starting Goalies

Kings: Martin Jones - 10-5-0, 1.90 GAA, .923 Save%
Penguins: Jeff Zatkoff - 12-4-1, 2.55 GAA, .915 Save% Ratings

Penguins                                                 Kings
Neal      60.7    5-on-5  Offensive Rating (F)   27.8    Gaborik
Sutter*   31.2    5-on-5  Defensive Rating (F)   73.2    Toffoli
Neal      62.9       PP Offensive Rating (F)     12.7    Gaborik
Glass     40.4       PK Defensive Rating (F)     32.5    Stoll
Niskanen  23.4    5-on-5 Defensive Rating (D)    60.4    Martinez
Bortuzzo  68.1       PK Defensive Rating (D)     53.0    Voynov

*Among active players.

What To Expect

Dan Bylsma cancelled practice on Wednesday, and several veteran players called out the team for a lack of pride and passion after the defeat to St Louis. That should mean legs will be fresher. Whether that translates into a better effort against the league's best defensive team remains to be seen.

If this season's earlier meeting is anything to go by, expect Sidney Crosby to see a healthy dose of Kings' defensemen Drew Doughty and Jake Muzzin along with old adversary Mike Richards. With Evgeni Malking out of the lineup, LA can sit on Crosby, meaning someone else will need to step up to relieve the pressure. Secondary scoring has not been a strong point this season, so if Crosby is held off the scoresheet (he had an assist last time around) the Penguins might struggle for goals.

Los Angeles are one of the best even-strength teams in the NHL, but the Penguins hold a big advantage on special teams. The Kings also make a habit of outshooting their opponents, while the Penguins have been inconsistent in that area lately. I think the Pens need to get on the board early and often - as they did when they chased Jonathan Quick in the first period back in January - to make the Kings have to open up a bit.

In a spot of good news, the Pens have just recalled winger Beau Bennett from his conditioning assignment with Wilkes/Barre, so hopefully we will be seeing the back of Taylor Pyatt soon.

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