The LA Kings can finish off their seven-game homestand 5-2 with a win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night.

Tale of the Tape

Powerplay:

LAK: 16.4% (25th)

PIT: 18.0% (22nd)

Penalty Kill:

LAK: 75.2% (26th)

PIT: 90.7% (1st)

Faceoffs:

LAK: 53.5% (6th)

PIT: 51.9% (9th)

Goals per game:

LAK: 2.72 (23rd)

PIT: 3.29 (10th)

Goals against per game:

LAK: 2.59 (6th)

PIT: 2.46 (2nd)

Top scorers:

LAK: Anze Kopitar – 9 goals, 21 assists, 30 points

PIT: Jake Guentzel – 18 goals, 17 assists, 35 points

Here are three things to keep an eye on tonight:

1. Jeff Carter returns to Los Angeles

For the first time since January 7, 2012, Jeff Carter will be playing a hockey game in Los Angeles, not as a member of the LA Kings. About a month and a half after the Kings’ defeated Carter and the Blue Jackets, Los Angeles acquired the London, Ontario native.

Carter was an integral piece in the Kings’ Stanley Cup runs, tallying a team-high eight goals – including three game-winners – to go along with 13 points in 2012. Two years later, he had 10 goals and 25 points en route to the Kings’ second Stanley Cup in three years.

On the eve of the trade deadline last season, Carter was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins, thus ending his illustrious tenure in Los Angeles.

“It was a tough day, I’ll be honest with you,” Carter told the media on Wednesday. “I wanted to finish my career here [in LA], but you understand the other side of it. The trade worked out great for me. I think it gave me a boost in my career and prolonged it.”

Prolonged is right. After being traded, Carter went on to score 9 goals and 11 points in 14 games. Through 29 games played this year, the 37-year-old has 11 goals – including two in Tuesday night’s win over Anaheim – and 20 points.

2. Malkin is back in the lineup for the Pens

The Penguins received a big shot in the arm last night, with Evgeni Malkin returning to the lineup. All the 35-year-old did was score two goals, including the game-winner in the team’s 4-1 victory.

After missing nearly two months of the shortened 56-game schedule last year, Malkin returned to the lineup for the final four games, tallying four points during that span before having offseason knee surgery.

Over his Hall-of-Fame career, the Russian forward has nine goals and 17 points in 16 career games against the LA Kings.

3. Another good litmus test

Save the best for last, right? The Penguins could be the hottest teams the Kings will see on this homestand. Pittsburgh has lost just two games since December 1. Granted, they had five games postponed due to COVID-related issues, but an 11-2-0 record is certainly nothing to scoff at.

During this recent hot stretch, the Penguins have been really good on the man advantage, converting on 9-of-37 opportunities (24.3%). Evan Rodrigues is having a career year already with 15 goals and 30 points in 35 games. The 28-year-old also has a career-best six powerplay goals.

Likewise, the Pens have been terrific on the penalty kill, sporting the league’s best PK coming into Thursday night’s game. Since the beginning of December, Mike Sullivan‘s group has given up just three powerplay goals on 31 chances (90.3%).

The LA Kings’ powerplay has not been great this season, so they’ll have their hands full in that department.

The Kings and Penguins will get underway from Crypto.com Arena at 7:30 PM PT.

Cal Petersen is back and it only helps Jonathan Quick

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