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Photo Credit: @NewfieMikey

GDB 72.0: The Final Nail?

I’ve felt for weeks the Los Angeles Kings were not going to catch the Edmonton Oilers in the race for a playoff spot. Today, the Oilers have a ten-point lead with eleven games to go. For even the most worrisome fan, an Oilers victory tonight should alleviate those concerns.

The Oilers could put an end to the playoff speculation tonight.

I still believe, regardless of tonight’s outcome, the Oilers will be playing after April 9th, but tonight’s game is an opportunity for them to crush the hopes of the Kings and their fans.

They haven’t been in this position in a long time, and this group is different than others in recent years. They’ve rarely laid an egg in big games, and they are 24-9-6 versus the Western Conference. They have the most wins of any Pacific Division team against the West and the best record within their division at 13-4-3.

The Oilers are no longer the weakling of the Pacific. They are 1-1 versus the Kings, and tonight is the first of three games in the next 16 days against the Kings.

Los Angeles has been a dominant force in the Pacific Division for years, and the Oilers have a glorious chance to send a message that they are one of the new top dogs within the division.

The Kings won’t go away easily. They have a lot of pride and experience, and are still blessed with some elite players, but the Kings lack of team speed is an issue. The Oilers need to exploit that and be confident in the fact they can play either a patient game or a speed game to defeat the Kings.

LINEUP

Oilers

LW C RW
Patrick Maroon
Patrick Maroon
Connor McDavid
Connor McDavid
Leon Draisaitl
Leon Draisaitl
Milan Lucic
Milan Lucic
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Jordan Eberle
Jordan Eberle
Benoit Pouliot
Benoit Pouliot
David Desharnais
David Desharnais
Zack Kassian
Zack Kassian
Matt Hendricks
Matt Hendricks
Mark Letestu
Mark Letestu
Drake Caggiula
Drake Caggiula
Defensive Pairings
Oscar Klefbom
Oscar Klefbom
Adam Larsson
Adam Larsson
Andrej Sekera
Andrej Sekera
Kris Russell
Kris Russell
Darnell Nurse
Darnell Nurse
Eric Gryba
Eric Gryba
Goalies
Cam Talbot
Cam Talbot

Based on who was on the ice after practice it looks like Matt Hendricks and Eric Gryba will draw back in tonight in place of Anton Slepyshev and Matt Benning. Usually, the players who aren’t playing remain on the ice after practice to work on some drills and do some skating.

Todd McLellan wouldn’t commit to his lineup this morning, but based on past history I’d expect to see Hendricks and Gryba return.

Kings

LW C RW
Dustin Brown
Dustin Brown
Anze Kopitar
Anze Kopitar
Jarome Iginla
Jarome Iginla
Tanner Pearson
Tanner Pearson
Jeff Carter
Jeff Carter
Tyler Toffoli
Tyler Toffoli
Adrian Kempe
Adrian Kempe
Trevor Lewis
Trevor Lewis
Marian Gaborik
Marian Gaborik
Kyle Clifford
Kyle Clifford
Nic Dowd
Nic Dowd
Andy Andreoff
Andy Andreoff
Defensive Pairings
Derek Forbort
Derek Forbort
Drew Doughty
Drew Doughty
Jake Muzzin
Jake Muzzin
Paul Ladue
Paul Ladue
Kevin Gravel
Kevin Gravel
Alec Martinez
Alec Martinez
Goalies
Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Quick

Quick was pulled last night after allowing two goals on seven shots.  Ben Bishop has a .899 sv% in 230 minutes with the Kings, so it makes sense to go back to Quick tonight for LA.

Lineups courtesy of DailyFaceoff.com

QUICK HITS

  • The last time the Oilers had one player with 90 points and another with 70 was in 2001 when Doug Weight tallied 90 and Ryan Smyth had 70. Connor McDavid has 80 points and Leon Draisailt has 63. Both are on pace to surpass 90 and 70 points respectively.
  • McDavid could also join the exclusive 90-point club with Weight, Wayne Gretzky, Blair MacDonald, Glenn Anderson, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri, Paul Coffey and Jimmy Carson. Craig Simpson had 90 points in 1988, but 26 of them came as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
  • Cam Talbot is four wins away from tying Grant Fuhr for the most wins in a season with 40. Talbot’s next victory will move him into sole possession of second place with 37. He is currently tied with Tommy Salo.
  • Anze Kopitar only has 44 points and unless he goes on a tear, he will have his lowest point total in an 82-game season since his rookie year in 2007 when he had 61 points. Kopitar does have eleven points in his last eleven games, so the Oilers still need to be leery of him, but he’s had a tough season offensively.
  • The Kings are a team in transition. They still have a solid core of Doughty, Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Jonathan Quick, Jake Muzzin and Tyler Toffoli, but they are trying to add some speed. One player to watch tonight is the speedy Adrian Kempe. He can fly, and the 20-year-old is starting to earn the trust of his head coach, who is playing him in more situations. The Kings need Kempe and some other young players to inject some speed in their lineup.
  • The Kings are a great example of how the quality of shots matters more than the quantity. The Kings have allowed the fewest shots on goal, 25.9/game, and they are seventh in SF at 31.3. The issue is they have settled for the outside shot too often. “They have struggled getting quality second chances, or even enough good chances from in close,” said Kings Analyst Jarret Stoll. The Kings will shoot from everywhere, but unless they have traffic in front or enough guys hungry for rebounds, they are simply padding their shot totals without producing quality chances.
  • The Kings are seventh in shots/game, but they are 25th in goals-per-game at 2.44. The Oilers are ninth in SF/G and they are 11th in goals/game. The Oilers have improved immensely on scoring from the tough areas, and the good news is I’d expect them to improve in that area as their young players get more comfortable in those areas and by making better decisions on when to shoot instead of pass.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…

From LA Kings Insider

Good morning, Oil Country, and good morning, Insiders.

I’m sorry – there will be no additional features on the site today because the sun burned a hole in my retina while I attempted to snap the lead photo. To be honest, I don’t really know why I’m apologizing. This is the sun’s fault! ::shakes fist at the sun::

We weren’t expecting such sunny skies this morning, but then again, we weren’t exactly expecting to land in a snowstorm, either. Nothing particularly heavy was coming down as we deplaned after the short flight from Calgary, but it was definitely snowy and chilly, and there was enough of it falling to make a light crunching sound as we retrieved our bags and placed them underneath the buses before heading to the hotel. Again, we’ve been pretty lucky with the lack of snow that we’ve encountered this year, which has been scant other than the one snowstorm we endured while leaving Buffalo. Of course, we’ll be back in Western Canada in a week, so the possibility of experiencing blizzard conditions still exists.

TONIGHT

Photoshop: @TomKostiuk

GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers win their fourth consecutive home game and move into second place in the Pacific division, one point ahead of the Flames and owning the tiebreaker over the Ducks with a 3-1 victory.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: If the Oilers don’t allow Carter to get a point, they’ll win. LA is 14-2-2 against the Oilers with Carter in the lineup. He has 14-10-24 in the 18 games versus Edmonton and he’s only had three games without a point. The two regulation losses occurred when Carter didn’t register a point.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Eberle only had four points in his first 20 games against the Kings. This season he has three assists in two games, including a pair of assists in their victory on December 29th. He hasn’t scored a goal in the Oilers past six games, but he ends that drought and scores his first goal of the season versus LA.

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