Five things to watch in LA Kings vs Edmonton Oilers on Sunday
The LA Kings hope to start off their mini Canadian road trip with a victory over the star-studded Edmonton Oilers
The LA Kings (9-9-4) finished off their seven-game homestand with a loss on Thursday, and they hope to get back into form with a win tonight in Alberta over the Edmonton Oilers (16-6-0).
Tale of the Tape
LAK: 17.8% (19th)
EDM: 35.9% (1st)
LAK: 74.5% (27th)
EDM: 87.7% (4th)
LAK: 53.5% (6th)
EDM: 53.2% (7th)
Goals Per Game
LAK: 2.64 (25th)
EDM: 3.81 (1st)
Goals Against Per Game
LAK: 2.77 (13th)
EDM: 2.90 (17th)
LAK: Anze Kopitar – 8 goals, 15 assists, 23 points
EDM: Leon Draisaitl – 20 goals, 21 assists, 41 points
Here’s a look at five things to watch in tonight’s contest:
1. Nurse, Shore look to return to the lineup for the Oilers
An already dominant lineup for the Oilers gets even better tonight, as it’s looking like we’ll see Darnell Nurse and Devin Shore return to the lineup following the respective injuries that had them miss several weeks. Both players were participants in the team’s full practice yesterday morning.
Darnell Nurse and Devin Shore are on the ice for the Oilers full practice today
— Bob Stauffer (@Bob_Stauffer) December 4, 2021
Nurse, 26, has been out since November 18th due to a broken finger. He got off to an 11 assist start through 16 games played before being taken out of the lineup.
Throughout his career, the Kings have done a relatively well job at shutting down the offensive defenseman in Nurse, as he’s been held to just three goals and eight points through 21 games played against the team.
Shore, 27, suffered a more serious injury than Nurse, as he’s been out since November 7th due to a lower-body injury. He’s usually playing in a bottom-six role with the Oilers and has one goal and two points through eight games played to begin the season.
Despite being a depth player, Shore has seemed to do well against the Kings and has two goals and seven points through just 11 games played against them.
2. Facing one of the best powerplays the sport has ever seen
Tonight will not be a walk in the park by any stretch of the imagination, as the Oilers have an elite powerplay, and if you give them just one opportunity, they will make you regret it. It has ranked first in the National Hockey League for the past three seasons.
The first unit begins with Zach Hyman, a heavy net-front presence and power forward. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is down the middle taking faceoffs and slinging passes around the ice. Leon Draisaitl is on the right side, using his quick and elite shot.
After that, on the point, you have the best player in the world, Connor McDavid, on the left side, and puck-moving defenseman and one of the quarterbacks of this unit, Tyson Barrie.
The second unit doesn’t change much, as Jesse Puljujarvi just comes in for Hyman, and Evan Bouchard comes in for Barrie, the rest of the players remain on the ice for the full two minutes, every single time.
A good bulk of their player’s points come straight from the special teams. McDavid has 18 of his 40 points from there, Draisaitl has 16 of his 41, Nugent-Hopkins has 12 of his 20. It’s clear that these special team opportunities are what give them the chance to manhandle their opponents, so the Kings can’t afford to be undisciplined tonight.
3. First game in over a year between the two teams
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the league had to stop play for half of a year, go directly into playoffs, and the next season had the Oilers only play against teams from Canada, so it’s been a long time since the Kings last met with them.
The last game between these two teams came on February 23rd, 2020, where the Oilers got the better of the Kings, 4-2. In fact, the Kings haven’t beaten the Oilers in over two years, with their last win against McDavid and his crew coming on November 21st, 2019.
This is also the first time the Kings are making their way to Alberta since the beginning of the pandemic. It’ll be interesting to see how the team reacts to the change between Los Angeles to western Canada so quickly.
4. Kopitar in for a big game?
Typically over the course of his career, Kopitar has performed well against the Oilers. He has 16 goals and 54 points through 55 career games played against them, a 0.98 points-per-game mark.
He’s struggled to put the puck in the back of the net lately, with just one goal since November 1st. However, the Oilers blue line is depleted.
Even with getting Nurse back, they’ll be without Duncan Keith, Cody Ceci, and Slater Koekkoek. This could be the perfect opportunity for Kopi’ to get back on the board.
He’s currently sitting just one point over point-per-game.
5. Koskinen expected to get the start
Mikko Koskinen was in the starter’s net for the Oilers at practice yesterday, indicating that he will likely get the start in Edmonton tonight.
Mikko Koskinen in the “starter’s net” for today’s practice. A good indicator he’s likely to get the start Sunday vs. LA. #Oilers pic.twitter.com/EAawITFS2G
— Tony Brar (@TonyBrarOTV) December 4, 2021
With Mike Smith out long-term with a leg injury, and Alex Stalock out for possibly the remainder of his career due to a heart condition, the Oilers have been rotating between Koskinen and rookie goaltender Stuart Skinner between the pipes for the majority of this season. Skinner has been great, but the Oilers have been more trusting towards the veteran netminder in Koskinen.
Koskinen has bounced back pretty nicely from a poor campaign last season. He is 12-2-0 with a .914 save percentage, compared to his prior abysmal .899 save percentage.
Over the course of his career, he has played the Kings five times and gone 3-0-1 with a .921 save percentage, so LA will hope to give him his first regulation loss tonight.
Puck drop is set for 5 p.m. PT.