They see me rollin'. They hatin'.
- Jul 28, 2004
With a pair of back-to-back comes kicking off on Monday afternoon in Carolina, coach Todd McLellan his LA Kings don’t have much time to focus on any negativity surrounding their current eight-game winless streak.
For two teams who don’t know each other very well — especially considering they only play each other twice per season — there isn’t a lot of recent history to draw upon. For their only other contest this season, they met up back in early October for a thrilling offensive game. Although the Hurricanes did come out on top in the shootout that night, perhaps there are still several things McLellan and his group can take with them into today’s matchup.
In a script that sounds similar (not exactly the same, just pretty similar) to what the Kings faced just 48 hours ago, that game earlier this season found LA down early against Carolina. Trailing by two goals heading into the third period that night, it was a resilient effort by the Kings to claw their way back into that game and eventually force overtime. Their captain, Anze Kopitar, led the way in that one, cashing in for two goals. It might take one of those special performances to get LA out of their current cold spell too. While a full team effort for 60-minutes would go a long way toward victory, a dominant individual performance from one of their leaders certainly wouldn’t hurt either. If guys like Kopitar, Adrian Kempe, Kevin Fiala, or PL Dubois can really get the offense going, that could do a lot to get this now desperate team back on track.
Without a morning skate today, tonight’s projected lineup below is just a guestimate.
Regardless, McLellan’s pre-game roster decisions start with his goaltender. No matter who gets the nod to start in net today, it will be their first time facing Carolina in over year. Pheonix Copley was in goal for the October matchup and — especially coming off the Detroit game — it now becomes a tough decision for McLellan and staff on what to do today. Do they let Cam Talbot play once again in hopes he can have a bounce-back game and get the club a win? Or maybe they let David Rittich get a full game in now and save Talbot for a Western Conference showdown with Dallas on Tuesday.
Generally speaking, it feels more like the latter. However, pouring through the stats actually suggests the opposite.
In his career, Rittich essentially has a .500 record against each club, but a better save percentage against Dallas (.923 compared to .906). He also hasn’t played Dallas in nearly four years. He’s also only faced Carolina twice since then, going 0-2. When going all the way back to 2019-20 (and why would anybody do that), Rittich was 0-2 vs. Carolina and 2-0 vs. Dallas.
Talbot has a career .928 save percentage when playing Carolina, far superior to his .879 vs. Dallas. It’s not just the saves, though. Talbot is 4-7-1 vs. Dallas, while he’s 6-3 vs. Carolina. Over the past two years, he’s only faced either team just once — a loss to Carolina last season.
What McLellan will opt to do today likely won’t be known until warmups. About the only realistic speculation is that one goalie gets the nod today and the other would be scheduled to start tomorrow in Dallas.
On defense, either rookie Brandt Clarke or Jordan Spence are expected to draw in on the right side of the third pair. That duo are also likely to split the two games, giving each player three of six games played on the road trip. We’re guessing Clarke stays in today and then McLellan turns back to Spence tomorrow. Again, that’s nothing more than a gut feel.
Among the forwards, Jaret Anderson-Dolan did draw in last game over Arthur Kaliyev. Recent analytics actually suggest it’s Carl Grundstrom who hasn’t been playing well and should have been the one scratched. Considering the Kings didn’t win on Saturday, and all bets are off at the moment, we’re flip-flopping those two in the lineup below. McLellan could very well just keep the same 12 forward he used last time out, leaving Kaliyev as a healthy scratch again.
As Phil Danault recently put it, there is a fine line between winning and losing, and the Kings are right there. An eight-game losing streak was not on LA’s 2023-2024 bingo card, yet it’s where they find themselves at the moment. Of the eight games, they have lost six by one goal, and four of them were after regulation. It could have very well been a much better stretch of results. Still, it is what it is. Whether you’re a believer in luck or not, the Kings need to start making their own again. That might be what it takes to leave Carolina with two points.
— With Quinton Byfield’s two-goal performance on Saturday, he’s up to 30 points (12G, 18A) in 39 games this season. The last Kings skater 21 years of age or younger to tally 30 points within the team’s first 39 games to start a season was Anze Kopitar (10G, 20A) in 2008-09.
— Anze Kopitar is one road goal shy of joining Marcel Dionne and Luc Robitaille as the only two players in Kings history to score 200 goals on the road.
— More Kopitar: Should Kopitar collect a point in the team’s 40th game of the season tonight, it would mark the fourth time in his career he has eclipsed the 40-point plateau within the team’s first 40 games to start a season. He previously turned the 40-in-40 trick in 2010-11, 2017-18, and 2021-22.
— Blake Lizotte enters tonight riding a five-game point streak (2-3=5) against the Hurricanes, dating back to Nov. 20, 2021.
— LA will begin a back-to-back set today for the seventh time this season. Thus far, the Kings are 6-3-3 overall in back-to-backs contests. Their record in the first game (5-0-1) is far better than the second night (1-3-2).
Kings Projected Lineup vs. Hurricanes
Byfield – Kopitar – Kempe
Fiala – Danault – Moore
Laferriere – Dubois – JAD
Kaliyev – Lizotte – Lewis
Anderson – Doughty
Gavrikov – Roy
Englund – Clarke
Likely scratches: Grundstrom, Spence
Injured: Arvidsson (LTIR), Copley (LTIR)
Key Game Info
Puck drop is set for 12:00 pm Pacific Time and will be televised by Bally Sports.
Across the Ice
Carolina defeated Pittsburgh 3-2 in overtime on Saturday.
Here’s how they lined up for that one:
Over their last 10 games, the Hurricanes are 7-1-2. At home, they hold a 12-3-4 record this season.
On This Day in Kings History
On January 14, 2021, Dustin Brown joined Luc Robitaille (557), Marcel Dionne (550), Dave Taylor (431), Anze Kopitar (407), and Bernie Nicholls (327) as the only players in franchise history to score 300 goals with the @LAKings.#LAKings #GoKingsGo pic.twitter.com/ko2SyRyIKy
— The Kingstorian (@Kingstorian) January 14, 2024