The Kings are in Edmonton tonight for a rematch of Sunday’s night’s game that featured a frustrating loss for the Oilers. Here are your game day notes.
1. The Kings are riding a massive two-game winning streak into town having defeated the Oilers in Edmonton on Sunday and doubling down with a win in Vancouver to kick off a three-game Western Canadian swing. This two-game winning streak is only L.A.’s second such streak of the season. If they win against Edmonton tonight, they can hit three-straight wins for the first time since late-February/early-March of last year.
2. The Kings are 5-6-0 since firing head coach John Stevens and replacing him with Willie Desjardins. That could also just be because of their schedule as four of those five wins came against teams not currently in the playoffs (Edmonton, Vancouver, St. Louis, and Chicago).
3. It’ll be interesting to see if Desjardins remains as the team’s head coach as he’s currently operating with the ambiguous “interim” tag. I have a sneaking suspicion that Todd McLellan may end up getting consideration for L.A.’s coaching gig. Like with Joel Quenneville, I imagine McLellan will wait until the off-season to weigh his options as he’ll be a coveted free agent, but there’s a connection with the Kings as McLellan coached general manager Rob Blake in San Jose in the final two seasons of his playing career.
4. Desjardins had a really, really weird quote about Ilya Kovalchuk when the team was in Vancouver earlier this week. In regards to Kovalchuk being demoted to the fourth line, Desjardins said: “But it is hard to find it when you’ve always been top-two line guy and all of a sudden somebody puts you on the fourth line. It’s going to be hard to find his game and it’s not fair to him in some ways. I’m making him play to his weaknesses.” What are you getting at here? Why put Kovalchuk in a situation in which he isn’t going to succeed when you’re actively admitting it’s a poor situation for him? Odd.
5. When the Oilers played the Kings on Sunday, Kovalchuk played just 6:20 minutes and spent virtually the entire third period on the bench. He had a strong start with the Kings in his return from the KHL, scoring 14 points in his first 14 games, but Kovalchuk hasn’t recorded a point in his last 10 games. Still, his 14 points puts him in a tie for second on the team with Drew Doughty.
6. Offence has been a struggle for the Kings this season. They rank dead last in the league in goals for and they’re operating at barely over a two-goal-per-game pace. They still managed to score three goals (including two more into an empty net) against the Oilers on Sunday. That five-goal explosion for the Kings was their highest offensive output in a single game this season.
7. Pretty much everything for the Kings runs through Anze Kopitar. If they’re winning, he’s doing a lot of the heavy lifting. He’s been doing that the past two games, which is largely why the Kings have back-to-back wins. Against the Oilers, Kopitar put up three points, and then he followed it up with another two points in the team’s most recent 2-1 win over Vancouver. Five of his 15 points this season have come in the past two games.
8. The Kings activated goaltender Jonathan Quick from the Injured Reserve on Tuesday. Getting your starting goalie back is great and all, but I wouldn’t say those who played in relief of Quick were the reason for any of the Kings’ struggles. AHL backup goalie Calvin Petersen got called up and played in eight games, posting a .927 save percentage. Petersen remains with the team as backup goalie Jack Campbell is also currently on the IR.
9. Sunday’s game against the Kings was an opportunity for Cam Talbot to get himself straightened out against the league’s worst offensive team. Talbot didn’t play poorly, allowing three goals on 30 shots, but it wasn’t enough to instill confidence in his game right now. Talbot hasn’t won a game in over a month now. His last win came on Oct. 28 in Chicago and he’s lost six starts in a row with an .855 save percentage over that stretch.
10. I know the Pacific Division is weak, but the Oilers need to start winning some games to climb back up the standings. The Vegas Golden Knights have caught fire and their early-season struggles seem to be behind them. Vegas is 4-1 since Nate Schmidt finished his suspension. That started with a big 6-3 win in Edmonton and also featured 2-0 and 6-0 shutouts of Calgary and San Jose and an 8-3 spanking of Chicago. A surging Vegas team suddenly makes the Pacific Division a little less terrible.
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Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 11/29/2018 – 8:00 am MT