G33 Game Notes: Edmonton Oilers face L.A. Kings for the first time in 2023-24

Edmonton Oilers Los Angeles Kings
Photo credit:Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Cam Lewis
5 months ago
1. After starting their three-game road trip with an easy win over the San Jose Sharks, the Edmonton Oilers will face their toughest test among the California teams when they play the L.A. Kings on Saturday night. The Oilers will play again on Sunday night against the Anaheim Ducks but this match with the Kings is the feature game of the trip.
In back-to-back years, the Kings have finished third place in the division and wound up losing to the second-seeded Oilers in the first round of the playoffs. This year, the Kings are a good bet to be one of the Pacific Division teams that host a playoff series as one of the top two seeds.
Los Angeles currently sits in third place in the Pacific Division, five points behind both the Vancouver Canucks and Vegas Golden Knights, but they actually have the top points percentage in the Western Conference. The Kings are 20-8-4, they have five games in hand on Vegas and Vancouver, and they’re 11 points clear of the Oilers with the same amount of games played.
2. This will be the first meeting between the two teams since the first-round playoff series in the spring that saw the Oilers edge out the Kings in six tight games. It’ll be a slightly different version of the Kings from the spring as the team made a handful of notable changes over the off-season. Goaltender Joonas Korpisalo left in free agency and Cam Talbot was signed as his replacement, forwards Alex Iafallo and Gabriel Vilardi were traded to the Winnipeg Jets for Pierre-Luc Dubois, and defencemen Sean Durzi and Sean Walker were dumped as salary cap casualties.
The moves that the Kings made involving their blueline and goaltenders have worked out very well as they’ve been arguably the strongest team defensively so far this season. The Kings have allowed the fewest shots and goals in all situations and they have the league’s best penalty kill at 87 percent. Talbot has a .924 save percentage in 23 starts and third-string goalie David Rittich has a .951 save percentage in two games since Pheonix Copley landed on the Long Term Injured Reserve earlier this month.
The deal for Dubois hasn’t looked quite as good thus far, though. The 25-year-old has seven goals and 14 points through 32 games with the Kings, which isn’t much production considering the $8.5 million cap hit on the contract that he signed after the trade. Meanwhile, Iafallo and Vilardi have 12 goals at a combined $7.5 million cap hit for the Jets.
Though Dubois isn’t scoring at the clip the Kings would probably have liked, they’re still an above-average team offensively with him as their third-line centre. The team’s top line of Anze Kopitar, Adrian Kempe, and Quinton Byfield have combined for 35 goals and the second line of Phillip Danault, Kevin Fiala, and Trevor Moore have scored 31. At even strength, Moore is leading the way with 14 goals.
3. Neither goaltender is confirmed, but it seems we’ll see Cam Talbot start for the Kings against his former club while Stuart Skinner again gets the nod for the Oilers. Skinner picked up a shutout in Edmonton’s win over the San Jose Sharks a couple of days ago but it makes sense to start him against the stronger team in the back-to-back. In this case, it’s the Kings, so Calvin Pickard will likely go against the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday.
Talbot didn’t face the Oilers last season while he was a member of the Ottawa Senators, so we have to go back to the 2021-22 season when he was with the Minnesota Wild to find the last times he played against his former team. That season, Talbot stopped 38 of 39 shots against the Oilers in a 4-1 win in December and then made 27 saves on 28 shots in a 5-1 win in April.

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