The LA Kings do battle against another divisional opponent in the Calgary Flames to wrap up their seven-game homestand.
Can the LA Kings (9-8-4) grab their second win of the lengthy homestand? They’ll have to do so against one of the league’s best teams in the Calgary Flames (13-4-5).
Tale of the Tape
LAK: 18.3% (18th)
CGY: 24.6% (7th)
LAK: 76.5% (26th)
CGY: 87.0% (6th)
LAK: 53.5% (5th)
CGY: 49.7% (18th)
Goals Per Game
LAK: 2.67 (25th)
CGY: 3.23 (8th)
Goals Against Per Game
LAK: 2.76 (12th)
CGY: 1.96 (1st)
LAK: Anze Kopitar – 8 goals, 15 assists, 23 points
CGY: Johnny Gaudreau – 9 goals, 16 assists, 25 points
Here’s a look at five things to watch in the contest:
1. Special night for former Kings
Thursday will be a special moment for several former members of the Kings’ organization. Flames head coach Darryl Sutter will return to STAPLES Center for the first time since 2017. Sutter, of course, was the bench boss during the Kings’ two Cup runs.
— Hockey Royalty (@Hockey_Royalty) December 2, 2021
He was given the Flames’ gig in March of last season, finishing with a 15-15 record despite a hot start out of the gate. Sutter has Calgary playing some good hockey through the first quarter of the 2021-22 season.
“I’m pretty much a middle-of-the-road, neutral guy,” Sutter said of his impending return to LA, via NHL.com. “I don’t get too high or too low.
“But that’s one of the best parts of being in the National Hockey League is going to those places and seeing a lot, including the fans, including the people.
“The best part for me is, for sure, the behind-the-scenes people. Early mornings, late nights, people you see a lot of or that they’re there with a lot. That’s what sticks out more than anything.”
Lewis was with the team until the 2020 offseason, signing a one-year deal with the Winnipeg Jets. With the modified rules amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the 34-year-old didn’t have the opportunity to play his former team – until Thursday.
Here’s what he said about returning to Los Angeles:
"I'm sure once we get on the ice it'll bring back some memories."
Trevor Lewis shares his thoughts on facing his former club tomorrow night to kick off the road swing. pic.twitter.com/H5KlKe2dPy
— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) December 1, 2021
2. Red-hot special teams
The Flames are the league’s best defensive team, coming into this matchup allowing just 1.96 goals per game. They have been terrific on both the penalty kill and powerplay, ranking sixth and seventh in the league, respectively.
Playing at even strength will be a challenge in itself as Calgary is a +22 in goals scored to goals allowed in 5-on-5 play. On the powerplay, Matthew Tkachuk and Andrew Mangiapane lead the way with five and four goals, respectively. The latter already has 15 goals in all, enjoying a stretch of six goals in five games.
On the Kings’ side, having Drew Doughty back in the lineup gave the team a boost on special teams. While Los Angeles went 0-for-1 on the powerplay on Tuesday, having Sean Durzi quarterback the team’s second powerplay unit provides formidable scoring threats from the blueline in such situations.
Needless to say, the Kings need to convert on the man advantage if they have any shot at winning this game.
3. Calgary’s goalie tandem
Cal Petersen is probably the starter in net for the Kings as he has generally alternated games with Jonathan Quick.
On the flip side, Calgary has been getting great goaltending from both of their netminders. Between Jacob Markstrom and Daniel Vladar, the duo has already accounted for seven shutouts. Markstrom has been getting the lion’s share of the starts between the pipes, recording a .938 SV% and 1.75 GAA in 17 games played.
Who's your sleeper pick to win the Vezina this year?
— Odds Shark (@OddsShark) November 28, 2021
Vladar last played on November 21, recording his second shutout in as many starts. The 24-year-old has primarily been the starter in the second leg of a back-to-back. Calgary hasn’t played since Monday, so I would expect to see Markstrom in net on Thursday.
Over his career, he’s (Markstrom) been solid against the Kings, logging a .919 SV% and 2.71 GAA in 12 starts.
4. Tkachuk vs. Doughty renewed
If we can’t see a Brendan Lemieux – Brady Tkachuk rematch, Drew Doughty versus Matthew Tkachuk will be the next best thing. The rivalry began in March 2017 when then-rookie Tkachuk elbowed Doughty in the face, sparking a near brawl against the sideboards.
“He’s a pretty dirty player, that kid,” Doughty said after the game. “To be a rookie and play like that is a little surprising.”
Tempers seem to boil over every time these two guys get together, so Thursday could be a fun game, especially if Matthew is trying to seek some revenge on Brady’s behalf.
For your viewing enjoyment:
5. Lead the way, Anze!
Anze Kopitar has looked more comfortable since Dustin Brown was bumped back up to the first line. He has six points over the last three games and has played well against Calgary throughout his career. The Kings captain has 19 goals and 49 points in 58 games against the Flames.
One step further – and tying back into point No. 2 – Kopitar has nine powerplay goals against Calgary, the most of any team he’s faced in his career. Kopitar and the Kings’ entire first line had points in Tuesday’s shootout loss to Anaheim. They’ll need to be on point in the final game of their seven-game homestand, and it all starts with Kopitar.
Puck drop is set for 7:30 pm PT.