The LA Kings and Carolina Hurricanes will wrap up their season series on Saturday after the latter took the first game 5-4 back in November.
Tale of the Tape
LAK: 18.7% (16th)
CAR: 21.4% (11th)
LAK: 76.7% (26th)
CAR: 88.3% (2nd)
LAK: 53.7% (6th)
CAR: 54.2% (3rd)
Goals per game:
LAK: 2.68 (23rd)
CAR: 3.21 (9th)
Goals against per game:
LAK: 2.54 (6th)
CAR: 2.18 (1st)
LAK: Anze Kopitar – 9 goals, 17 assists, 26 points
CAR: Teuvo Teravainen – 6 goals, 16 assists, 22 points
Here are three things to keep an eye on tonight:
1. Depth call-ups
The LA Kings recalled not one but two defensemen from the Ontario Reign on Friday. As previously touched on (HERE), Jacob Moverare and Jordan Spence will be with the team in Raleigh and presumably Washington D.C.
The transaction makes perfect sense, given how many players across the league are going into COVID protocol right now. With Drew Doughty and Alex Edler out of the lineup, the Kings have bolstered the depth along the blueline for the back-to-back this weekend.
On the flip side, Carolina recalled forwards Josh Leivo and C.J. Smith on an “emergency basis,” the team announced on Friday. Obviously, both teams are prepared for a worst-case scenario, but the Hurricanes still have six players in protocol who can return Monday, December 27 at the earliest.
2. Who starts in net?
With the back-to-back set this weekend, one thing is certain. Cal Petersen will get his first start since December 6. The Kings have been riding the hot hand in Jonathan Quick, who is playing lights-out-hockey in net right now.
The future Hall-of-Famer will turn 36 next month, but he’s discovered the fountain of youth. Over his last five starts, Quick has a .961 SV% and a 1.20 GAA – just absurd numbers.
Oh my godness. We selected Jonathan Quick as the most impressive player of the specific game for fifth time this season already! Yesterday he saved 2.79 goals above expected and helped a lot Los Angeles to beat the Panthers 4-1. Brilliant performance! pic.twitter.com/kkRR0JrqtK
— Andy & Rono (@ARHockeyStats) December 17, 2021
The question, though, is which game will Petersen get this weekend? Neither will be an easier task than the other. The 27-year-old has never faced the Capitals in his career. He allowed five goals on 20 shots in his one and only start against Carolina earlier this year.
Regardless of which game he gets, Petersen has to start playing better. His freshly signed three-year contract extension doesn’t begin until next year, but the Waterloo, Iowa native has a -5.9 GSAA (goals-saved above average), the seventh-worst mark in the NHL for goalies with at least 10 starts.
3. Avoid the track meet
In their last meeting, the Kings and Hurricanes traded goals all the way to the finish line, with Carolina prevailing 5-4 at STAPLES Center. Much like the Panthers, the Hurricanes play a fast-paced game and play well when they can open things up.
As a team, Carolina owns the second-best Corsi-for percentage (56.2%) in 5-on-5 play, and the Kings cannot allow them to dictate the game.
In the first period of Thursday’s game, the Panthers played a wide-open style of game before the Kings made adjustments during the intermission to tighten up defensively. They’ve shown the ability to shut down great 5-on-5 teams this season, but ultimately, the Kings have struggled to finish on their chances.
Against the second-best penalty kill and top defensive team in the league, I’d expect the LA Kings scoring opportunities to be few and far between, but they will need to cash in if they want to steal a win at PNC Arena. Let’s see if Dustin Brown‘s Connor McDavid-Esque goal gets him going.
Puck drop is at 4 pm PT.