TONIGHT’S MATCHUP: The Kings have just four games remaining here in the regular season, with that stretch beginning tonight with the second-to-last home game on the calendar.
HEAD-TO-HEAD: The Kings enter tonight’s matchup with a 1-0-1 mark against the Blackhawks so far this season, including a 5-2 victory in Chicago earlier this month. Chicago draft pick Phillip Danault leads the team with four points (3-1-4) versus the Blackhawks so far this season, while the duo of Viktor Arvidsson and Sean Durzi each have three assists. In total, seven skaters expected to dress tonight have multiple points in the season series.
KINGS VITALS: On a four-game stretch of games played in Southern California, the Kings have won the first two, each by 2-1 margins, and will play the third tonight against Chicago.
Per Todd McLellan this morning, goaltender Jonathan Quick will make his fifth consecutive start this evening. Quick was not on the ice for morning skate, and will continue in net off of a standout performance in Anaheim, more on that below. Quick is 14-16-2 all-time versus the Blackhawks with a .911 save percentage and a 2.63 goals-against average.
The Kings held an optional morning skate today, though one that indicated a couple of potential roster moves this evening. The six defensemen appeared to remain the same, based on who was on late and who came off earlier, but the Kings could be set to make a pair of roster moves tonight. McLellan indicated that the team could make a pair of roster moves up front and forwards Quinton Byfield and Carl Grundstrom were off with the regulars, while Rasmus Kupari and Brendan Lemieux were on later for extra work with others who have been scratched.
“Different ingredients, different opponent,” McLellan said this morning. “We lost a lot of players in the Anaheim game, due to penalties, three in the second, one early in the third and all of a sudden your bench is short. We tried to spot a few of those fourth-line players if you want to call them that, on different lines just to get them going again, but even then, Brownie didn’t play very much. Guys we needed to get going were sitting there and sitting there, it’s different if that happens late in the game and you’re almost done, but it happened the whole second period. It’s just different tonight ingredients. ”
No rushes today to confirm, but should those moves be correct, or made as straight swaps, here’s how things could shake out.
Athanasiou – Kopitar – Kempe
Moore – Danault – Arvidsson
Iafallo – Lizotte – Brown
Grundstrom – Byfield – Kaliyev
Edler – Roy
Moverare – Durzi
Maatta – Spence
In addition to Kupari and Lemieux, the Kings also have forwards Lias Andersson and Gabe Vilardi available tonight. On the backend, defensemen Mikey Anderson, Tobias Bjornfot, Troy Stecher and Austin Strand are all not expected to play tonight. Anderson is still “skating and working his way back” and won’t play tonight, per McLellan.
BLACKHAWKS VITALS: Chicago enters tonight’s game with 10 losses from their last 12 games played with a 2-8-2 record in those contests. The Blackhawks have scored more than three goals in just 3 of their last 10 games, though they earned a 4-3 victory in Arizona yesterday evening.
Goaltender Kevin Lankinen got the nod in Arizona last night and has been the goaltender of record in eight of his team’s last nine games played. No word on who will get the start today, with the back-to-back, but should Chicago return to Colin Delia, he’s played both of the first head-to-head games with the Kings. Delia is 1-1-0 in those games and has stopped 74 of the 81 shots he faced, good for a .914 save percentage.
Per Ben Pope of the Chicago Sun Times, here’s how the Blackhawks aligned yesterday in Arizona –
Blackhawks lines in warmups vs. Coyotes:
– Ben Pope (enBenPopeCST) April 21, 2022
Defenseman Connor Murphy is still out of action, with a concussion, and is not expected to play tonight in Los Angeles.
Quick Play & Performance
See a lot of those “vintage Jonathan Quick” posts over the last 48 hours, haven’t we?
Following his 29 saves against Anaheim on Tuesday, several of which were high-danger chances against, Quick is expected to get the start again this evening against the Blackhawks, with the Kings hopeful to see more of that level of play, just with fewer of those types of chances against.
Has anyone seen that level more though than Anze Kopitar? Kopitar noted he’s certainly seen it more than once or twice over the years.
“Yeah, more than just a time or two,” he said. “What can I really say but he was outstanding [against Anaheim]that second period alone it could have been a lot heavier than it was, but he kept us in it and then we found a way to score in the third and hold on. “
Quick’s play certainly helped to bail out the Kings in the second period, when Ducks power plays and the puck possession that followed shifted the momentum in favor of Anaheim. The Ducks got one power-play goal off the rush, but were limited by the acrobatics of Quick throughout that 20 minutes in particular.
His teammates certainly took notice and appreciated that level of play.
“He was so good at that game, just an all-time performance from him,” said Trevor Moore. “Sometimes, you look and you’re like ‘that’s a goal against’ and he somehow gets a pad on it or makes one of those ridiculous saves and it’s such a huge momentum [boost] for our team, when you think they’re going to score for sure and he makes a huge save. It’s like, now we’re going. Hopefully down stretch here, we don’t have to make him make too many of those saves but it’s good that he can. “
Quick’s performance on Tuesday has earned him another start today, on Thursday.
The Kings have deemed their rotation in the net a “day-to-day” approach, with Quick earning the starting nod in now five straight games, including one-goal wins over Columbus and Anaheim.
Todd McLellan said a few days back that he’d like to see one goaltender get hot at this time of the year and claim the net, take over the net. Asked today if he feels Quick has gotten hot over the last two games?
“He was certainly against Anaheim, I don’t think anybody could argue that,” McLellan said. “He’s thrown us some pretty good games lately.”
No anointing of a start yet for the final three games, but Quick with another opportunity tonight to continue his impressive run as of late.
The Kings have scored the first goal in each of the past two games, and have generally had solid starts in those games. They scored two in the first period in Chicago on the road trip prior. Three in Minnesota the game before that.
Now, this isn’t necessarily a season-long trend here. The Kings have scored just 53 first-period goals this season and just three teams in the NHL have scored fewer, all non-playoff teams. Against Columbus, though, the first period was enough. The goal in Anaheim came 28 seconds after the first period ended, but was still a first goal. At 118 total goals in the first period, both for and against, just Carolina and the New York Rangers have played lower-scoring first periods than the Kings have this season.
Todd McLellan pointed out that you can’t simply walk into the room and tell your team to go out, play well and score early. Great on paper, but you only win that bet 50 percent of the time, as he put it. Now, he’s indicated that he feels the Kings are starting games similarly, though the goals are starting to follow.
“I don’t think our starts are significantly better than they were perhaps when we weren’t scoring first, just that 50 percent bet has gone our way,” McLellan said this morning. “If we look at Anaheim the other night, we created some momentum, got a power play early and had some good looks, numerous shots on that power play but after that it went dry for a little bit. We got a little bit sloppy and that probably led to the penalties. The start wasn’t as good as we would’ve wanted, but we did score first. I think it’s hard to tie goals into that. Sometimes it’s real obvious, but it’s hard to tie it into the big, overall picture.
Trevor Moore put the onus on handing off good shifts and getting the entire team involved.
The speedy winger believes that it takes the entire group to start a game well and generally, that’s how momentum is built. You saw it in the second period in Anaheim go the other way, as momentum swung, and you can see if for the Kings too, as of late early in games.
“I think just handing off a good shift, if we can get four lines going, four, good handoffs, you change in the o-zone, get the other team tired,” he explained. “Not getting hemmed in or leaving one guy out there tired and then the lines are all messed up. I think when we all get in it and tilt the ice towards the other goalie, it’s a good start. “
McLellan indicated that the messaging comes with a few key pointers for starts, sometimes team-dependent, and then they take it from there. From that point, if the Kings execute as they want to and know they can, it should go from there.
“We talk about certain things we think we need to do early in the game and often in the game and then hopefully the game takes over itself, momentum is built and then we score. That would be our approach. “
In The Pipeline
Lastly, Insiders, enjoy this look inside the development of goaltender Matthew Villalta, who has taken command of the starters net with the AHL’s Ontario Reign this season. He’s been a mainstay on a Reign team that sits second in the Pacific Division, with their postseason beginning in early-May.
Just two home games left! Kings and Blackhawks tonight, with an opportunity to move two points closer to the postseason!