3/30 Preview – Optional Skate Today + Moving On, Facing Edmonton’s Big Guns, Nousiainen ELC

WHO: Los Angeles Kings (36-23-9) vs. Edmonton Oilers (36-28-4)
WHAT: NHL REGULAR SEASON GAME
WHEN: Wednesday, March 30 at 6:30 PM Pacific
WHERE: Rogers Place – Edmonton, AB
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: Bally Sports West – AUDIO – iHeart Radio – TWITTER: @DooleyLAK@LAKings

TONIGHT’S MATCH: The Kings begin a three-game road trip across Western Canada tonight, with their final visit of the season to Edmonton.

HEAD TO HEAD: The Kings and Oilers split their first two head-to-head meetings this season, with each team winning along the way. Of those playing tonight, the quartet of Adrian Kempe (2-0-0), Arthur Kaliyev (1-1-2), Trevor Moore (1-1-2) and Viktor Arvidsson (0-2-2) each have two points against Edmonton. The Kings scored three power play goals the last time they visited Edmonton.

KINGS VITAL: After home practice yesterday and a late flight to Edmonton, the Kings were back on the ice this morning ahead of tonight’s game against the Oilers.

After two starts from Cal Petersen in the split against Seattle, you can expect Jonathan Quick between the pipes tonight against Edmonton. Quick didn’t take a morning skate today, indicating a return to action tonight. Lifetime is Quick 24-9-5 against the Oilers, with a save rate of 0.924 and an average of 2.02 goals. Quick’s 24 wins against the Oilers are his second most against a single opponent, one below his average against Anaheim (25).

This morning’s skate was optional, although most of the group chose to hit the ice. Looking at this morning’s alignment, the Kings don’t have the luxury of making changes up front, with only 12 healthy forwards at the moment, but do have two extras in the back, should they decide to make personnel changes, or maybe use an 11-7 alignment.

That said, here’s an expectation of how the team could shake out this evening, with the pairings listed being what was used this morning –

Iafallo – Kopitar – Kempe
Moore – Danault – Arvidsson
Vilardi – Byfield – Kupari
Grundstrom – Andersson – Kaliyev

Maatta – Stecher
Bjornfot-Durzi
Edler – Spence
Moverare – Beach

Fast
Petersen

Today’s skate gives us the idea that Alex Edler could be ready to return to the lineup, having spent the last few days getting extra reps in training. Todd McLellan said there could be “possibly” a lineup change on the backend, but hasn’t fully committed to it, so we’ll wait until the warmups tonight to find out for sure. Edler returned to action earlier this month after a broken leg, a grueling task, playing in four straight games before eliminating the last two.

“I hope it helped him. He was disappointed that he couldn’t play, and that was understandable. It was important to get some reps, to be in the group and I’m sure it will help him. We asked him to do something that was virtually impossible, get rid of a broken leg, without any practice, and play. He’s a guy who can probably pack a punch, and he’s done a really good job of it, but when we found an opportunity to give him some time for some reps, we hoped it would help. †

VITAL OILERS: The Oilers have been up and down regularly over the course of their season, with their recent run no different. Overall, they’ve won seven of their last 13, one game over .500, although that streak includes a run of five straight wins and another of three straight losses.

Edmonton netless Mikko Koskinen is expected to get the start for the hosts tonight, his third consecutive kink between the pipes. All-time versus the Kings, Koskinen is 3-2-0, with a save rate of 0.901 and an average of 3.47 goals, totals including LA’s win here in December.

According to Bob Stauffer of the Oilers Radio Network, here’s how Edmonton came out against Arizona last time –

Edmonton’s only injury at the moment is defender Oscar Kleverbom, who is long-term injured with a shoulder injury.

Comments –

bounce back, move on
In games after their last 16 regulatory losses, the LA Kings are 13-3-0.

That’s a pretty good bounce-back record.

Tonight’s task will not be an easy one, trying to bounce back on the road against the team closest to the Kings in the standings, in the Edmonton Oilers. Tonight’s task is also after one of the most disappointing results of the season, Monday’s 6-1 loss at home to Seattle. When asked if the team just wiped out the game or talked about it, McLellan said it was a bit of both.

“We can say we just wipe it off and move on, but it’s never that easy,” McLellan said. “We addressed a few things, talked about what went wrong and why it happened. Then we move on. We had a bit of a cleaning day yesterday and we know that the task we have today, tomorrow, Saturday and advancing is not going to be easy, but it hasn’t been easy going forward for the past month and a half. Nothing is going to change.”

Defender Troy Stecher generally agreed.

You have to discuss the game and various elements of what happened, but the mindset is about moving forward. It makes no sense to dwell on a very disappointing result and possibly let that result play into tonight’s game against the Oilers. Go forward, go on.

“There were certain aspects that you had to discuss, you watch a video, but for the most part, when you understand where we are as a group, you sweep that under the rug and move on,” Stecher said. “We’ve had a lot of success since I’ve been here, only played four games, but that was a bit of an odd one.”

oil drops
For a team still missing four of the opening night’s six defenders, it’s quite a challenge to face Edmonton. With Edmonton’s ability to roll out Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl on separate lines – and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on a third line – there will of course be times when young defenders like Jordan Spence or Sean Durzi, Jacob Moverare if he plays will go out and play against those players.

One advantage that the Kings do have are individuals like Troy Stecher and Alex Edler, who are longtime Vancouver Canucks, who have met these individuals multiple times during their careers. Todd McLellan said this morning there is help, mostly verbal, but you don’t know what it’s like until you experience it.

“It’s very important, but it’s only verbal,” McLellan said. “A bit visual, but until you go out and feel what it’s like to play against Connor, Leon, Nuge and the group as a whole, you don’t quite understand. We played Toby Bjornfot here a few years ago and tried to prepare him for it, but it was like wow, I get it now. You have to experience it. A lot of our young D will get that tonight, and they’ll stand their ground, they’ll do what they have to do.”

The game McLellan refers to was Bjornfot’s NHL debut in 2019. Just after being selected in the first round of the draft, Bjornfot came into action against those players on night one, along with Drew Doughty to open the game. The experience was definitely an eye opener, with the preparation that only brought you so far.

As McLellan said, he believes the younger defenders are up to the challenge.

Stecher tended to agree. He’s been through it, he understands the magnitude of the task, but at the same time he pointed out that these are the matchups you want to tackle. To be great you have to play against great players. Good news this morning.

“I don’t really think there is much to learn. I think everyone in the hockey world knows how good those two individuals are, how much they carry this organization and the success they have,” he said. “You’re up against the Oilers, you’ve got your hands full. It’s going to be a challenge, but if you want to be a good player, you have to face that challenge, you have to embrace it. I think everyone is ready and excited.”

Without those regular customers, it’s up to others to step in and take up the challenge.

Nousiainen ELC
Finally, some organizational news from today.

The Kings have signed defender Kim Nousiainen to an entry-level contract. Nousiainen’s deal begins next fall, with the 2022-23 season, and he will finish this year on an ATO with the AHL’s Ontario Reign.

More about Nousiainen HERE, but when he spoke to Mark Yannetti last summer, Nousiainen’s answer to the question of what ‘under the radar’ perspective was someone we should be talking about more. Loved his competitiveness and his two-way characteristics, noting that he has excelled and surpassed barriers at every level so far. Noticed that he is undersized but believes he has the toolkit to overcome it.

He started this with the idea that this comparison is stylistic, not necessarily a long-term comparison, but says Nousiainen plays the same style of play as longtime NHL defender Kimmo Timonen. Kings European Scout Christian Ruuttu made the same similar. That’s a lofty comparison, creating unrealistic expectations, but that’s the style of the defender the Kings are drawing. Good things everywhere.

Kings and Oilers, tonight at 6:30 p.m. Pacific Time from the Great White North. Big, insiders!

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