Ohio is for lovers.
And the Kings love playing on the road so far this season.
They’ve left SoCal once again and will kick off a four-game road trip on Tuesday in Columbus, where they will look to stay perfect and push one step closer to making history. If they can find a way to win once again, it would push their away record to 10-0-0, tying the NHL record to start a season.
Tonight also marks the first time that defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov will face his old Blue Jackets teammates since joining the Kings in a trade last spring. He spent almost four seasons in Columbus and is sure to receive a nice welcome from the local faithful. Essentially from day one of arriving in LA, the 28-year-old blueliner has made an impact with his new club. He solidified the team’s second pairing and has even been willing to chirp a few of his teammates and show some personality in interviews. Keeping things light off the ice and on virtual lock down on it have become two of his calling cards.
Since joining the Kings, when Gavrikov has been paired with Matt Roy, they lead all defensive pairings in multiple even-strength categories (min. TOI: 500 minutes, source: Natural Stat Trick), including Shots on Goal % (62.2%), Goals Against (14), Scoring Chances % (63.6%) and high-danger chances % (67.3%).
While much has already been written about the Kings stellar performance while playing a man down this season, it isn’t just the penalty kill that is producing solid defensive numbers.
@KingsMenPodcast @lakingsinsider @DennisTFP, @JimFox19 @mayorNHL, @GustlTweets I had to screenshot this as I don’t think it’s ever happened in my lifetime as an LA Kings fan (fan over 50 years). Leading in goals for and against? pic.twitter.com/xkzZhLmbdA
— Mark Umekubo (@MUmekubo) December 5, 2023
Entering play today, the Kings are tops in the league when it comes to most goals scored per game and fewest goals given up. Over the past 45 seasons, only one team has ever turned this trick for an entire year, the 2010-11 Vancouver Canucks (s/t Blake Wayre).
Offensively speaking, all eyes will likely be on PL Dubois come puck drop. Like Gavrikov, he was originally drafted by the Blue Jackets and spent three-plus seasons with the organization before being traded to Winnipeg in Jan. 2021. Through 21 games since arriving in Los Angeles and signing a long-term extension, the 25-year-old forward has produced 11 points (5G, 6A). Recently, coach Todd McLellan complimented the game of his third-line center, saying the most recent 10 games were better than his first 10 in a Kings uniform — which is to be expected, as he continues to adjust to new teammates and systems.
That said, Dubois has some rather impressive underlying analytics. When playing 5-on-5, he leads the team in shot assists per game and has over 75% controlled zone entries (a ridiculously high number). Overall, his shot attempts are slightly down from recent years (i.e. roughly 13 attempts per game compared to 16, source: Natural Stat Trick). This likely has just as much to do with who he’s playing with than his own production. This is where the absence of Viktor Arvidsson is really felt in the lineup. Look for Dubois to start putting up numbers on the power play as an early indication he’s starting to find some offensive rhythm.
Down on the fourth line, center Blake Lizotte did travel with the team and could possibly be set to make a return to the lineup tonight. Yet, it would more likely come after at least one full practice with the team, which hasn’t happened thus far. LA’s energy bug has missed a couple of weeks since sustaining an upper-body injury.
As discussed earlier this week on Kings Of The Podcast, how McLellan opts to use his goalies this week will be interesting. There is only one back-to-back set on the four-game road trip, coming up this weekend. However, it’s unlikely that Cam Talbot will get the remaining three starts. Instead, look for Pheonix Copley to get some playing time on the trip, allowing him to continue to elevate his game while also giving Talbot some rest. Load management might become a factor moving forward, as LA will need to get as much out of Talbot as possible.
Stats Worth Knowing
— The Kings have successfully killed off 32 of their last 33 penalties, dating back to Nov. 4 at Philadelphia. It’s all part of a league-best penalty-killing percentage (PK%) of 89.7%. Tonight, they’ll take on the Blue Jackets 86.8 PK%, which ranks fourth best in the NHL.
— Anze Kopitar just keeps rolling right along. He’s currently riding a five-game road goal scoring streak (5G), the longest active streak in the league. Charlie Simmer (8GP), Adam Deadmarsh (6GP), and Bernie Nicholls (2x; 6GP) are the only three Kings in history to have longer road goal scoring streaks.
— Kevin Fiala must love Ohio. He has 11 points (3G, 8A) in nine career games against the Blue Jackets in Columbus. Nine of those points (2G, 7A) have come in his last six outings there.
— McLellan’s squad have allowed two or fewer goals in each of their last seven games. They’ve also scored four or more goals in five of their last six contests.
Kings Projected Lineup vs. Blue Jackets
Byfield – Kopitar – Kempe
Fiala – Danault – Moore
Laferriere – Dubois – Grundstrom
JAD – Lewis – Kaliyev
Anderson – Doughty
Gavrikov – Roy
Englund – Spence
Likely scratches: Lizotte, Moverare
Key Game Info
Puck drop is set for 4pm Pacific Time and will be televised by Bally Sports.
Across the Ice
Columbus is coming off a 3-1 loss to Boston on Sunday.
Here’s how the Blue Jackets are expected to line up tonight:
On This Day in Kings History
On December 5, 1992, the @LAKings set a franchise record when they won their 12th consecutive home game after a 7-3 victory over the Hartford Whalers. Paul Coffey recorded four assists, and Robb Stauber made 39 saves to maintain a nine-game undefeated streak.#LAKings #GoKingsGo pic.twitter.com/AFd3HqjUVR
— The Kingstorian (@Kingstorian) December 5, 2023
Game day graphic created by ALo Images
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