10/25 Preview – Potential Alignment + Facing The Bolts, Grundstrom’s Metrics, Clarke on Firsts

WHO: Los Angeles Kings (3-4-0) vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (3-3-0)
WHEN: Tuesday, October 25 @ 7:30 PM Pacific
WHERE: Crypto.com Arena – Los Angeles, CA
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: Bally Sports West – AUDIO – iHeart Radio – TWITTER: @DooleyLAK & @LAKings

TONIGHT’S MATCHUP: The Kings have returned home following five straight games on the road, with a matchup against the Tampa Bay Lightning kicking off a three-game homestand here in Los Angeles.

HEAD-TO-HEAD: The Kings lost both games against Tampa Bay last season and have lost ten straight against the Lightning, although they did pick up a point in Florida with an overtime defeat. Forwards Viktor Arvidsson and Phillip Danault each had a goal and an assist against the Lightning last season to lead the way.

KINGS VITALS: The Kings hit the ice for a full-team practice yesterday morning, which leads into an optional morning skate today here in El Segundo.

Goaltender Jonathan Quick did not skate this morning at the Toyota Sports Performance Center, leading to the notion that he will start this evening against Tampa Bay. Throughout his NHL career, Quick is 6-5-3 against the Lightning, with a .919 save percentage and a 2.29 goals-against average.

With regards to the skaters, not a full team on the ice today to take formal rushes, but here’s a forecast of what we might see based on yesterday’s practice –

Kempe – Kopitar – Fiala
Moore – Danault – Arvidsson
Kaliyev – Byfield – Vilardi
Lemieux – Lizotte – Grundstrom

Durzi – Roy


The Kings saw defenseman Alex Edler re-join the lineup in Washington, coming off of an upper-body injury that saw him miss the previous three games. Todd McLellan indicated the possibility of one lineup change tonight, but that decision won’t be made until after warmups this evening. Defenseman Sean Walker and forward Jaret Anderson-Dolan were out against the Capitals and would be the options to check in should that move be made. We’ll see how things shake out between now and tonight’s game.

LIGHTNING VITALS: Tampa Bay hits the road to begin a three-game road trip here in California, with games against the Ducks and Sharks to follow later in the week. The Lightning have won back-to-back games entering tonight’s action, with a .500 start to the season.

Tampa Bay is expected to start goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy in tonight’s contest, as he was the first netminder off the ice following the morning skate. Vasilevskiy has posted a 7-2-0 career record from 10 appearances against the Kings, with a .919 save percentage and a 2.73 goals-against average.

Per Chris Krenn of TampaBayLightning.com, here’s how the team lined up during today’s morning skate –

Former Kings prospect Erik Cernak is set to return to the Tampa Bay lineup this evening, on a defensive pairing with Viktor Hedman. Hedman scored three goals from two games against LA last season. Former Ducks forward Corey Perry leads all active skaters in the NHL with 24 career goals against the Kings.

Notes –

The Eastern Champs Are Here
Todd McLellan knows who is coming into town tonight to kick off a three-game homestand for the Kings. It’s the Tampa Bay Lightning, three-time defending Eastern Conference champions, with last season’s defeat against Colorado in the Stanley Cup Final the only thing separating the Lightning from a three-peat.

“I think if you’re playing against Tampa, it doesn’t matter if it’s at home or on the road, it could be at a neutral site game in Europe, you better be ready,” he said this morning. “It’s a pretty good opponent for us to have tonight to see if we can get it going in the right direction consistently. It’s been going in the right direction, but inconsistently.”

Inconsistency is probably the name of the game right now when it comes to the Kings. Regardless of the opponent, things are moving in the right direction, but they’re not doing so with any sort of predictability or consistency, as it was in the second half of last season.

An area that has been discussed over the last few days has been the notion of aggression shown by the defensemen and the need for matching coverage from the forwards. It’s an area of ​​the game where the Kings have struggled to find the balance between the two groups, with responsibility shared throughout all parties involved. Finding that balance is important on any night, but with Tampa Bay in town it is especially important against a team that likes to play long, and does so successfully.

“This team likes to play long and they’re good at it,” McLellan said. “They also have defensemen that are very active, jumping into the play and they’ve had success doing that. When you talk about a pinch, you often talk about what your defenseman is doing and how he’s doing it and when that’s the player going south, the other players coming north are as important or more important. There are situations where all five players are involved successfully or unsuccessfully in pinches.”

When the teams met last season, injuries affected both sides. The Kings played quite well when the teams met in Tampa Bay, with a controversial non-call in overtime setting up the game-winning goal for the Lightning, but it came with Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov out with injuries. The game in January, a 6-4 defeat, saw Tampa Bay missing several regulars on the blueline.

Tonight, the Kings will get the full squad and a challenging matchup here to start the homestand.

“The last few times we played them they weren’t necessarily healthy,” McLellan added. “They had some pretty good players out of their lineup and they’ll have their best tonight and that’s really good. They rely on their goaltender to be a stabilizing factor for them and I just wrote in our pre-scout that they play their game and they try and impose it on their opponent, that’s what they do.”

Carlllllllllllll, Good To See You
Forward Carl Grundstrom has proven to be a strong fit alongside Blake Lizotte and Brendan Lemieux on the fourth line.

We’ve covered that line quite a bit over the last few days, but Grundstrom specifically seemed to adopt the identity and mindset that the others have, to create a ton of attempts over the course of the second half of that trip.

“Carl is just a workhorse, he throws his weight around and he can score around the net,” Lizotte said of Grundstrom. “If you give him a few chances around the net, it’s going to go in. I think Carl brings that bulldog attitude, along with Lemieux, where we can break teams down by using our bodies and our legs on the forecheck. I think that chemistry is at a good spot right now.”

On a per/60 basis, Grundstrom ranks third among Kings forwards in terms of shot attempts at 5-on-5, while he also ranks third in terms of high-danger chances with the same qualifiers. That line as a whole has done a good job of creating shot volume in the offensive zone, while also showing an ability to forecheck effectively to turn first chances into second and third looks. This far, the reward hasn’t come at 5-on-5, with Grundstrom’s goal in Pittsburgh coming on a late power-play chance with the game out of hand.

If last season is any indicator, the offense will eventually come, although it’s also not what that line is counted on for on a game-to-game basis. Grundstrom offers a combination of skill and physicality that has proven to be a nice fit alongside his current linemates.

“Grunny can play a simple game, but also has the offensive ability and skill to make other plays,” Lemieux added. “I think our line has an identity and how the coaching staff has wanted us to play is that simple style of game over and over and repeat that process.”

As McLellan noted yesterday, the Kings are comfortable with that line right now. If they keep doing what they’re doing, with Grundstrom being a big part in that, it’s a good sign moving forward.

The recent trek across the country came with it the first of several experiences for young defender Brandt Clarke. His first NHL road trip, his first. his first NHL point which came on an assist in Pittsburgh and his first chance to see NHL superstars opposing him from game to game to game. Almost in that conversation was his first goal as well, but he hit the post on a good look in the third period of that game.

Clarke spoke on a few of those firsts this morning –

On his first NHL point
Yeah, it was a really good feeling, it was late in the game, down 6-0 to make it 6-1 isn’t the most memorable story ever but it’s still something I’ll cherish for a long time. I have the puck and it’s definitely something I’ll keep forever.

On his first NHL road trip
[In the OHL] with Barrie, we were so central that we rarely ever stayed in hotels and a lot of the young guys had school. It was fun to just be around the team for so long, we all bonded, so that was nice. The guys all included me in dinners and what not and I had a great time on the trip.

On playing against NHL superstars on consecutive nights
Yeah, it’s kind of wild, my buddies are always watching the game and sending me photos standing next to those guys, it’s pretty funny. I feel like in warm up, looking over and [Crosby] is doing his warm up on the McDonald’s sign, that’s kind of when I’m looking over there like wow, they’re here. I think when the puck drops, the game starts, it doesn’t really cross my mind. I feel like I’m good in that sense.

Kings and Lightning, 7:30 PM from Crypto.com Arena! Good to be home, Insiders. See you there!

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