7:00 PM EST
Don't look now but here come the Kings!
The Kings remind me a lot of the Blue Jackets last season. They are a team who has a tremendous collection of yount talent with some solid veterans mixed in.
They are 4-3 so far this season and appear, at least early on, to be a dangerous team on the rise.
The Kings haven't had much of a problem scoring goals. In fact they've potted 23 of em so far which is an average of 3.29 per game - that is good for 10th in the league. Andre Kopitar leads the way with 11 points and new acquisition Ryan Smyth is meshing well out of the gate with 9. Keep an eye on second year defensive dynamo Drew Doughty whose already racked up 6 big ones.
Other than Rick Nash, the Jackets offense hasn't done a whole lot of scoring of late. In fact they have just 7 goals over their past 3 games -- fortunately that was enough to get em 2 wins. The good news is they are creating chances, especially the Umberger-Vermette-Voracek line, now they just need to get to em to fall (and not prematurely blown dead).
This is a tough one to call. The Kings can roll 3 lines that can score but so can the Jackets. Doughty gives them a nice dynamic on the blueline but I don't think it's enough to give them the edge on the road.
The Jackets continue to butter their bread by being responsible defensively in all 3 zones. They are 4th in the league in goal against only giving up on average 2.20 goals a game. Everybody has bought in to Hitch's system and they are piling up the wins early.
The question of the game is how does this squad respond without their bedrock defensemen in Jan Hejda? How do the new pairing gel?
The Kings on the hand are suspect in this area. They've given up on average 3.43 goals per game -- good for 20th overall in the league. They are venerable and my guess is that this has a lot to do with their inexperience on the blueline.
Even withtout bacon (i.e. Hejda) on their cheeseburger this is an area the Jackets clearly have an advantage and will need to exploit.
Quick vs. Mase.
I haven't watched much of Quick so I'll have to go off stats. He's backstopped the Kings to 4 wins but has a 3.18 GAA and .893 save %. Not exactly great numbers for a goaltender.
Mase bounced back well against Calgary after a tough night in Vancouver. Goaltenders need to have a short memory in this league to be successful and Mase has shown the ability to do that. He's got 3 wins a 2.71 GAA and .916 save %. Need to tighten up those rebounds.
I like Mase over Quick at this point as Quick hasn't shown enough. The Kings have a lot of skill on their forwards line who can break a game quickly so Mase will need to be sharp.
Kings have the 13th ranked PP and 29th ranked PK.
The Jackets have the 18th ranked PP and #1 PK.
Clearly the Jackets PP will need to take advantage of a very suspect LA PK. Who else is up for another Stralman one time goal? I think Umberger is due to cash in as well with his work in front of the cage. The Jackets have been really good entering the zone with puck possession. That will need to continue.
The Jackets will need to contain Ryan Smyth who is a major pest around that net. Drew Doughty also has a nice bomb from the point.
The Kings are on the 5th game of a 6 game road trip. So far they are 2-2 having dropped their past 2. They'll be a motivated bunch as they look to get back on the winning track.
This is the Jackets last home game before they depart on a challenging 4 game west coast trip of their own. They need to take advantage of that and pad their spot in the standings. They also need to take advantage of what should be a good crowd at Nationwide Arena on a Saturday night.
Then there is Jan "bacon" Hejda situation. It will be very interesting to watch how the defense plays without him eating up those major minutes against the other team's top players. Everybody will need to elevate their games to make up for his absence.
No word yet if Nikita is Filatin or Filatout of the lineup tonight.
For those attending the game don't forget to show your support for Hats For Heroes!