We’ve entered “must-win” territory. After a disappointing outcome on Sunday, the LA Kings have just eight games to go. Todd McLellan’s club holds a two-point advantage over the Vegas Golden Knights for the third and final spot in the Pacific Division. However, Vegas has a game in hand on LA.
The Kings’ final seven of eight games are against non-playoff teams, with Wednesday’s game against the Avalanche being the outlier. It’s time to win the games you should.
First up, the Chicago Blackhawks. Here’s how the two teams stack up on paper.
LAK: Anze Kopitar – 18 goals, 43 assists, 61 points
CHI: Patrick Kane – 22 goals, 60 assists, 82 points
Despite this one being played in Chicago, the Kings come into this one as favorites, per our sponsors at DraftKings.
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- Kings Odds: -145
- Blackhawks Odds: +125
- Over/Under: 6.0
- Time: 5:30 pm PT
- Broadcast Info: NBCSCH, KCOP-13, ESPN+
Here’s how the Kings aligned in Sunday’s 6-3 loss to Minnesota:
Today's @LAKings Line Rushes –— Zach Dooley (@DooleyLAK) April 10, 2022
Iafallo – Kopitar – Kempe
Moore – Danault – Arvidsson
Vilardi – Byfield – Kupari
Lemieux – Lizotte (!) – Grundstrom
Roy – Stecher
Bjornfot – Durzi
Maatta – Spence
Per the practice notes on LAKI, Alex Iafallo was skating among the bottom-six forwards. The 28-year-old has had a difficult second half of the season, tallying just one goal and five assists in 27 games while shooting at an uncharacteristically low 1.5% shot rate. Aside from Kempe, the Kings really need their first line to show up here down the stretch.
Blake Lizotte returned to the lineup in his normal 4C spot among the forward lines. It was interesting to see Arthur Kaliyev get the healthy scratch in favor of Carl Grundstrom, but the latter ended up scoring the game’s second goal.
Also, with Cal Petersen not showing his best on Sunday, I’d expect Jonathan Quick to get the start between the pipes. The future Hall-of-Famer got the start against the Blackhawks back on March 24, stopping 28-of-31 shots, but the Kings fell in a shootout.
I’d also like to see the Kings make an adjustment along the blueline, splitting up the Durzi – Bjornfot pairing. The duo has been on the ice for way too many goals this year. Health dependent, Alex Edler can facilitate some defensive pairing changes.
Here’s how the Blackhawks aligned in Sunday’s 6-4 loss to the Stars:
Blackhawks lines in warmups vs. Stars:— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) April 10, 2022
Chicago had lost six straight games going into Sunday, now at seven games, and head coach Derek King switched up the forward lines.
Final: Stars 6, Blackhawks 4— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) April 11, 2022
Hawks' 7th consecutive loss. They now have twice as many total losses this season (48) as wins (24).
Derek King on switched-up lines:— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) April 11, 2022
"I know we don’t have a lot of time… and everybody’s probably shaking their heads [saying], 'King doesn’t know what he’s talking about or doing.' But I’ve got to try something. You lose 6 in a row, now 7, you’ve got to try something." https://t.co/ZrRTyEYsrn
Kevin Lankinen got the start for the Blackhawks on Sunday, but he was replaced by Collin Delia after the second period when the Hawks trailed 5-3. The Kings saw Delia last time out, and he stopped 43-of-46 shots. It appears that he is the expected starter for the Blackhawks.
Collin Delia starts tomorrow vs LAK. Caleb Jones will be in for TBD. Same forwards, but Reichel will play with Strome and DeBrincat, and Raddysh will play with Dach and Lafferty.— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) April 11, 2022
Again, this is a must-win game for the Kings, who face Colorado on Wednesday. Of note, I’ll be in attendance.
(Main Photo Credit: Hockey Royalty)