For what is probably (and hopefully!) the only time we will ever see the Kings and Ducks faceoff for the eighth time in a single season, SoCal’s two NHL teams will hook up on Saturday night in what we’re calling – The Final Faceoff.
To date, LA has gone 4-2-1 vs. Anaheim, yet none of the games were as wild as what went down Friday night at the Honda Center.
Down 1-0 after 50+ minutes of action, Gabe Vilardi made a highlight reel pass to allow Lias Andersson to tie things up. A few minutes later, Anze Kopitar… well, he just did what Anze Kopitar does against the Ducks. He scored his own highlight reel goal.
In his career, Kopitar has now posted 73 points in 78 games — including 27 goals, the most he’s scored against any NHL team.
— Eric (@Kingsgifs) May 1, 2021
— Eric (@Kingsgifs) May 1, 2021
We asked coach Todd McLellan about the play by Vilardi post-game and he had this to say:
“He’s got to feel good about his game tonight, and feel pretty good about making that play. I believe he can make that on a regular basis, tight areas where he uses his vision and creates like that. Part of the game he needs to improve on is the long game, the open game, and that will come. There’s been a lot of pressure on him and we’ve talked at nauseum about him; over and over and over again, about being patient. When you prorate it to 82 games, he’s going to end up with a pretty darn good season. We expect so much from him — us, you, all of the Kings world — it’s a tough position for him to be in. He just needs a little evolution time.”
As for what the lineup will look like tonight, we can only speculate. There wasn’t a pre-game media availability this morning. Just looking at how the Kings played for the first 40 minutes on Friday, clearly McLellan didn’t like what he saw.
McLellan says he told the players before the third period that he's part of the mgmt group evaluating these players and they'll be making decisions in the summer based on these games too. They matter. Some are giving it away, some are showing they want more.
— John Hoven | The Mayor (@mayorNHL) May 1, 2021
Will that be enough to make a few tweaks to the line-up for this one last go with the Ducks? We’ll assume he’s going with the same lineup. (I know, I know… Todd warned us earlier this week).
If there was a reshuffling of a few wingers, the most likely option could be flipping Andreas Athanasiou and Trevor Moore as the RW2 and RW3. Carl Grundstrom would be the only new face we’d think is a potential option to possibly join the 12 forwards playing in this game.
LA Kings projected lineup vs. Anaheim Ducks
Iafallo – Kopitar – Brown
Kempe – Byfield – Athanasiou
Andersson – Vilardi – Moore
Lemieux – JAD – Wagner
Bjornfot – Doughty
Anderson – Roy
Maatta – Walker *
* MacDermind could slide in to replace Maatta or be used as a seventh defenseman
Other players available:
Blake Lizotte (injured, upper body)
The taxi squad is currently comprised of Troy Grosenick, Drake Rymsha, Cole Hults, and Tyler Madden.
NOTE: Once again, the Kings are scheduled to wear their ’90s Heritage Jerseys tonight (pictured above). This is one of three games where they’ll break out the Gretzky-era classics.
We also have some additional notes to pass along regarding Byfield, beyond the confirmation he will play again tonight.
As discussed during Friday’s Kings Of The Podcast episode, we believe the rough plan for Byfield’s six game call-up was set up as:
Game 1 – 4/28 vs. Anaheim
Game 2 – 4/30 at Anaheim
Game 3 – 5/1 at Anaheim
Game 4 – Mon or Wed at Arizona
Game 5 – next Fri or Sat at Colorado
Game 6 – 5/10 vs. St Louis
With the recent injury to Lizotte, we’ve learned the plan has now changed a bit. While it’s officially being labeled a “game by game” decision, the current thinking seems to be to let him play continuously, up until he’s completed the sixth game. If Lizotte recovers soon enough, and McLellan feels Byfield could benefit from resting one game — say, perhaps opening night of the two-game set at Colorado — the six-straight could be interrupted. Once Byfield has completed his games, though, he’ll be returned to the Reign and participate in the just announced AHL postseason tournament.
Additionally, the status of Lizotte at that point will then impact GM Rob Blake’s decision on which player to recall from Ontario up to the NHL roster. It might need to be a center at that point.
For more on that decision, see the article linked below.
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