The LA Kings will pay a visit to the two-time defending Stanley Cup champs to kick off a daunting road trip.
A lot has happened since the LA Kings, and Tampa Bay Lightning faced each other last on January 14th, 2020, a 4-3 shootout win for the Lightning at Amalie Arena.
The Lightning? All they’ve done is win two Stanley Cups since then.
The LA Kings? Well, they’re not going to have as much to brag about at the reunion. Still, they’ll be looking to show Tampa Bay that they’re a better team than they were two years ago and leave town with two points.
Tuesday’s match with the back-to-back defending champs kicks off a road trip for LA that will see them face four of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. Meanwhile, it’s the Lightning’s first game back home from a five-game road trip. That trip finished with a 4-0 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Saturday to snap a five-game winning streak.
Tale of the Tape
LAK: 18.4% (20th)
TBL: 18.5% (19th)
LAK: 74.2% (28th)
TBL: 80% (18th)
LAK: 53.2% (6th)
TBL: 48.7% (20th)
Goals per game:
LAK: 2.65 (25th)
TBL: 3.22 (9th)
Goals against per game:
LAK: 2.58 (8th)
TBL: 2.67 (10th)
LAK: Anze Kopitar – 8 goals, 16 assists, 24 points
TBL: Steven Stamkos – 13 goals, 19 assists, 32 points
Here are three things to keep an eye on tonight:
1. Replacing Edler
The LA Kings lost Sean Walker for the season just six games in. They’ve played 16 games without Drew Doughty. And now they’ve been dealt another huge blow to their blue line, as it sounds like Alex Edler is going to miss an extended period of time with a lower-body injury suffered in the first period of Saturday’s game against the Minnesota Wild.
Christian Wolanin was called up to take Edler’s spot on the roster, but it looks like Olli Maatta will draw back into the lineup tonight. He took Edler’s spot on his pairing with Matt Roy at practice on Monday.
Rob Blake may already be working the phones trying to find help, but it’s not easy — or cheap — to pry quality defensemen away from teams. The real opportunity here may be for Tobias Björnfot to step up and show he’s ready to help take on some extra responsibility in the absence of Edler.
2. Slowing down Stamkos
Entering tonight with a record of 17-6-4, the Lightning are having yet another very good season. This is despite the fact that they’ve been without two of their best players for a long time now. Nikita Kucherov’s played only three games this season, and Brayden Point has been out of the lineup for the last 10.
Then there’s Steven Stamkos. He was a first-overall pick by the Lightning. He’s the team’s longest-tenured player. He’s the captain. However, it almost feels like he’s been overshadowed in recent years due to injuries and how many other great players Tampa Bay has had. Stamkos missed almost all of the Bolts’ playoff run in 2020 when they won the first of their back-to-back Cups.
But in the absence of both Kucherov and Point this season, Stamkos has been leading the Tampa attack and reminding everyone that he’s still pretty good at this, too. He has a healthy lead in both goals (13) and points (32) among his team’s forwards. Ondrej Palat ranks second in goals with nine, while Alex Killorn is second in points with 23.
Stamkos is unquestionably Tampa Bay’s most dangerous player in the lineup tonight. The LA Kings will have to do a better job of shutting him down than they have historically. In his career, Stamkos has 18 points (7-11-18) in 15 games against LA.
You can bet Doughty’s looking forward to the challenge of shutting down his old buddy tonight. The two of them go way back as former World Juniors teammates who were the top two picks of the 2008 draft.
3. LA’s struggling power play VS Tampa’s struggling penalty kill
Tampa Bay’s special teams haven’t been great this year. They’re below average in both categories. They cost them big-time in Saturday’s loss to Ottawa, as their power play went 0-for-5 while the Senators went 2-for-4.
In particular, it’s been a rough stretch for the Lightning’s penalty kill. Opposing power-play units are 4-for-6 against Tampa’s PK over the last two games and 8-for-18 (44.4%) over the last seven games.
The Kings, of course, are not great on special teams either. Their power play is 0-for-9 over their last three games, including an 0-for-5 against the Wild on Saturday.
But even if LA’s power play couldn’t find a way to get the puck in the net against Minnesota, it had some good shifts. Both Todd McLellan and Brendan Lemieux spoke after the game about how even though the power play didn’t score, it helped generate momentum for the team.
“We’ve talked a lot about the power play and if it’s not scoring, what can it do for you,” McLellan said. “I thought it created momentum and that’s where we handed off a shift and got rolling around.”
“The power play, it kind of puts them on their heels,” Lemieux said. “I know you don’t score goals sometimes, but if you’re creating chances, that makes them tired and the shift after the power play you have to have a good one too. It got some momentum for us.”
If the power play can generate the same sort of opportunities that it did on Saturday, against a struggling penalty kill unit like the Lightning’s, perhaps the Kings may actually be able to get a goal or two out of it.