A little housekeeping, first. Vancouver will be without a couple of key players:
The Vancouver Canucks announced today that forwards Brock Boeser and Phillip Di Giuseppe, in addition to one support staff member in Vancouver have been placed into the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol.
— Canucks PR (@CanucksPR) December 29, 2021
Tale of the Tape
LAK: 16.7% (24th)
VAN: 19.2% (15th)
LAK: 76.1% (27th)
VAN: 68.4% (32nd)
LAK: 53.9% (6th)
VAN: 51.3% (11th)
Goals per game:
Goals against per game:
LAK: Anze Kopitar – 9 goals, 19 assists, 28 points
VAN: J.T. Miller – 11 goals, 23 assists, 34 points
Here are three things to keep an eye on tonight:
1. Quick to the trigger
Barring any unforeseen circumstances, Kings head coach Todd McLellan indicated that Jonathan Quick would be back between the pipes against the Canucks on Thursday. Quick, who will turn 36 next month, allowed five goals on 15 shots in Tuesday’s loss to Vegas. In his defense, poor passing in front of the LA Kings net led to easy turnovers and, therefore, goals for the Golden Knights, sending Quick to the showers early.
Something to keep an eye on, but the future Hall-of-Famer has allowed five goals in his last two contests in what has otherwise been an outstanding year for Quick. If I’m in Quick’s mindset, I want to get right back out there to prove Tuesday was a fluke.
Cal Petersen was activated from COVID protocol on Wednesday, and he’s participated in the last two practices. However, he hasn’t played since allowing four goals to these same Canucks back on December 6. Activated and immediately plugged into live-game action might be a tad premature, so a couple of additional practices should set Petersen up nicely for Saturday’s start against the Flyers.
For Quick, though, it will be important to get back on track against a Vancouver team that had won six consecutive games since making a change at the head coaching position.
2. Danault a game-time decision
The Kings sorely missed Phillip Danault‘s presence against Vegas on both sides of the puck. There’s no sugar-coating that one. He returned to practice on Wednesday but remains in COVID protocol. The NHL and NHLPA agreed to modify the COVID protocol rules reducing the mandatory isolation period after a positive test from 10 days to five days for fully vaccinated players who meet the required conditions.
Danault would appear to be a candidate for the reduced isolation, but per McLellan, it’s not as simple as plugging him back into the lineup like a Drew Doughty, for example.
“I think each of the situations are a little bit different,” McLellan said after practice on Wednesday, via LA Kings Insider. “Whether they had symptoms or not, positional, how they feel as an individual. Would we like them all back right now? Yes, but we saw with Drew how hard it is to get your game back.”
The LA Kings would love nothing more than to have Danault take his 2C spot, with Alex Turcotte dropping to third-line center duties. But there’s also the challenge of working in Rasmus Kupari, who returned to practice from a non-COVID illness. Perhaps one of them can move to the wing.
3. Take care of the puck
In Tuesday’s 6-3 loss against Vegas, the LA Kings looked like a team that had not played in live-game action in over a week. The Golden Knights weren’t crisp by any means either, but there is a clear talent gap between clubs that Vegas took advantage of the Kings’ turnovers.
To make it perfectly clear, LA’s top pairing of Drew Doughty and Mikey Anderson have to play better than they did against Vegas. The two graded out with the two lowest game scores of all skaters, per Hockey Stat Cards:
And the blame does not fall squarely on their shoulders. The Kings have to play a better game, a cleaner game, if they want to continue in an upward trajectory. Drew Doughty’s turnover right in front of the crease led to the Golden Knights’ sixth and final goal; that must be cleaned up.
“Today was not a difficult day for us, the players had a pretty good idea of what was coming,” McLellan said of Wednesday’s practice. “They were receptive to it. The bulk of our practice was done in the locker room, learning through video, and then the rest of it was followed up on the ice. For me, it finally feels like we’re back to where we need to be. Like I said last night, I didn’t feel that the first two days of practice, it does feel like that now.”
The Kings’ bench boss noted that the team wasn’t where they needed to be after two practices leading up to Tuesday’s game. In the past, the Kings have had these kinds of practices, where they clean up the details, and it carries over into the game.
Let’s see how it translates on Thursday. Puck drop is set from Crypto.com Arena at 7:30 PM PT.