In a game that many had circled on their calendars when the NHL schedule was first released, Jonathan Quick is back in Los Angeles for a Kings-Rangers matchup at Crypto.com Arena.
“He should be remembered this weekend for being the best goalie in our organization and celebrated that way,” said Kings GM Rob Blake a few days ago.
And that’s the expectation. Fans inside the building will shower Quick with love prior to puck drop. His former teammates wearing the home jersey will show him nothing but respect.
Then, there’s a game to play. An important game for the Kings, considering points haven’t come easy over the past few weeks and they’ve fallen from possible Pacific Division winner to clinging on in the Wild Card race.
Six games remain for LA before the All-Star break. With a nearly two week break that follows, each of their six contests between now and then carries extra weight. Coming into tonight, coach Todd McLellan and his group have one victory in the last eleven games. Not many games around the midpoint of the NHL schedule are considered ‘must-win,’ but the three remaining home games this week (starting with the Rangers) certainly have that feel. The talent is there. Are they desperate enough to compete at the level necessary, where they’ll need to outwork their opponents?
It’s pretty straightforward at this point for LA. It’s hard to win if they don’t score. Their offensive woes over the last month are truly puzzling. For example, the top line of Anze Kopitar, Adrian Kempe, and Quinton Byfield haven’t really produced much. That’s a line that all but carried the team earlier in the year for a considerable amount of time, and now they’ve gone silent.
Over the past 11 games, the Kings have scored a total of 14 even strength goals. Kempe and Trevor Moore each have three, or nearly half the total. Byfield, Arthur Kaliyev, Carl Grundstrom, and Jaret Anderson-Dolan don’t have any. PL Dubois and Kevin Fiala each have one.
Following the team’s loss to Nashville on Thursday, McLellan said that guys aren’t making the same plays they were in the first part of the season. The confidence and swagger displayed by the Kings earlier this season isn’t there right now.
All of this leads into the possible lineup changes coming for the game tonight. Indications are, Dubois will get a further test drive at left wing alongside Kopitar, a spot he filled in for at times on Thursday.
Will Sammy Fagemo or Brandt Clarke draw in? The latter is likely. We’ll see about the former come warm-ups, but it is trending that way.
As discussed during Friday’s Kings of the Podcast episode, there are likely two scenarios that could play out over the next few weeks. For one, if LA keeps losing, it could force Rob Blake to make signifcant changes. Although Blake was quick to shut down any rumblings of a coaching change just a couple of days ago, if things keep snowballing, you never know what might happen. Conversely, there is an optimistic scenario, where somehow the group figures it out and starts to win and learn from this disastrous stretch. No matter which direction it goes, buckle up for a crazy couple of weeks in Los Angeles.
— The Kings have points in four of their last five matchups against the Rangers at Crypto.com Arena, dating back to Jan. 21, 2018 (4-1-0).
— LA has allowed a league-low 17 power-play goals this season.
— Quick left the Kings leading in nearly every statistical category for the Kings, including: games played (743), wins (370), and shutouts (57).
Kings Projected Lineup vs. Rangers
Dubois – Kopitar – Kempe
Fiala – Danault – Moore
Laferriere – Byfield – Kaliyev
Grundstrom – Lewis – Fagemo
Anderson – Doughty
Gavrikov – Roy
Englund – Clarke
Likely scratches: Anderson-Dolan, Spence
Injured Reserve: Arvidsson (LTIR), Copley (LTIR), Lizotte (week-to-week)
Key Game Info
Puck drop is set for 7:30 pm Pacific Time and will be televised by KCAL 9.
For those live in attendance, the LA Kings Booster Club will offer their popular ‘Puck for a Buck’ contest — featuring Drew Doughty for this game. Just $1 could win you an autographed puck from an NHL star. Visit their table outside sections 317-318 on the upper concourse for more information.
LA Royal Army, another fan support group, has a booth outside section 303. They do watch parties and other fun activities. Stop by and check them out.
Across the Ice
Back in LA pic.twitter.com/CQFDPmazDi
— The Mayor | Team MM (@mayorNHL) January 20, 2024
Jonathan Quick was off first. He will start for the Rangers tonight vs. LA Kings.
— The Mayor | Team MM (@mayorNHL) January 20, 2024
New York is coming off a 5-1 defeat by Vegas on Thursday.
Here’s how they’re expected to lin up for tonight:
Kreider – Zibanejad – Kakko
Panarin – Trochek – Lafreniere
Cuylle – Brodzinski – Wheeler
Vesey – Pitlick – Goodrow
Fox – Lindgren
Trouba – Miller
Schneider – Jones
In their last 10 games, the Rangers are 4-5-1. As the road team, they’re 13-8-2 this season.
On This Day in Kings History
On January 20, 1990, the @LAKings acquired forwards Tony Granato and Tomas Sandstrom from the New York Rangers for Bernie Nicholls. Sandstrom scored 117 goals and 254 points in 235 games, and Granato scored 148 goals and 305 points in 380 games with the #LAKings.#GoKingsGo pic.twitter.com/U7mlkdPjgc
— The Kingstorian (@Kingstorian) January 20, 2024
Lineup graphic via ALoImages
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