11/10 Preview – Projected Lineup + Chicago Rematch, Importance of Faceoffs, ONT to Turcotte
WHO: Los Angeles Kings (8-6-1) vs Chicago Blackhawks (5-5-2)
What: NHL regular season games
When: Thursday, November 10 @ 7:30 PM Pacific
Where: Crypto.com Arena – Los Angeles, CA
How to follow: Video: ESPN+ / Hulu – Hearing – iHeart Radio – Twitter: @DooleyLAK And @LAKings
Tonight’s Match: The Kings return to home ice this evening against Chicago, with a rematch from last week against the Blackhawks from Illinois on the docket.
Facing: The Kings dropped the season opener 2-1 in overtime when the teams met at the United Center last week. Forward Blake Lizotte scored his team’s only goal in that game, while forward Arthur Kaliev and defenseman Sean Walker tallied assists. Forward Philippe Danault led the Kings with four goals and five points against his former team a season ago.
Kings are important: The Kings held a full practice yesterday in El Segundo, leading to an optional morning skate today before tilting with Chicago –
After a shutout win on Tuesday, Jonathan Quick was not on the ice this morning, making him the expected starter this evening, his fourth straight start. Quick was 17-of-19 in last week’s overtime loss at Chicago. All-time vs. the Blackhawks, Quick posted a 15-16-3 record, a .911 save percentage and a 2.57 goals-against average.
The Kings don’t seem to be in line for any changes coming out of this morning’s skate, but as always, wait for the anthem. Based on the lineups of the past two days, here’s how the Kings might line up this evening vs. Chicago –
Kempe – Kopitar – Vilardi
Moore – Danault – Arvidson
Fiala – Copper – Grundstrom
Anderson – Doughty
Forward Jarrett Anderson-Dolan and defenseman Brandt Clark are options to return to the lineup should the hosts look to make any changes to the lineup. Clark hasn’t played since Nov. 1 at Dallas, while Anderson-Dolan hasn’t played since Oct. 27 against Winnipeg. Since the Kings opted for an 11/7 alignment against the Stars, we’ve seen the same lineup in each of the three games.
Blackhawks Important: Chicago has been off since Saturday, when they lost 4-0 to the Winnipeg Jets. Tonight’s game is part of a short, two-game trip as the Blackhawks visit Los Angeles and Anaheim before heading home.
Chicago head coach Luke Richardson said goaltenders Petar Mrazek and Arvid Soderblom are expected to share the starts in California. Mrazek looks likely to get the nod this evening, his first start since injury. Mrazek is 3-1-0 all-time vs. the Kings with a .968 save percentage, 1.00 goals-against average and one shutout.
Ben Pope of the Chicago Sun-Times, here Chicago lined up during their morning skate from Crypto.com Arena –
Blackhawks line vs. Kings at morning skate:
— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) November 10, 2022
As they did in Chicago, former Kings Andreas Athanasiou and Jake Johnson are expected to be in tonight’s lineup against their former team on the top forward line and top defensive pairing, respectively. Athanasiou has six points (3-3-6) and a +3 rating in 12 games with his new club.
I haven’t seen you before
“We’re in the Chicago game, we’ll test that tonight and I think we can improve.”
Before the game against Minnesota, Todd McLellan was asked if he viewed the game as a “measuring stick” type of game, as it was the first time this season the Kings had seen off an opponent twice. McClellan replied that it wasn’t in the sense that the first Minnesota game was a complete one-off, it was a weird, 7-6 game that wasn’t really comparable. Two nights later, the same question could be asked, as the Kings were happy with some progress in the process last week in Chicago, even though they weren’t opportunistic with their chances and lost 2-1 in overtime.
McLellan noted that in Minnesota, the Kings were shorthanded six times in the final 40 minutes of the game, which is not the way they want to play. In Chicago, the game was played predominantly 5-on-5, which suited the Kings.
“In Chicago, it was a little bit more 5-on-5 when we were in their building, there wasn’t a significant amount of penalties by any means, and sometimes it went in our favor,” McLellan said. “We like to play 5-on-5 and after testing tonight, we’ll see if we can apply some of what we’ve practiced the last few days and see if we can improve in that area after practice.”
In the Blackhawks, a different test awaits the Kings. McLellan noted that Chicago plays the game differently than Minnesota and highlighted the importance of keeping the power-play in the league’s top-third off the ice. He also highlighted their cup-holders – Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews – for their strong starts to the season.
From a scouting perspective, the good news is that these teams played just seven days ago and Chicago has only played once since then. There’s not much you can do in terms of stylistic overhaul at that point, so the Kings have a good idea of what they’re facing.
“I don’t think there’s a team in the league that’s going to rebuild their identity in week one, it’s impossible,” McLellan added. “They’ve got structure, they’ve got a new coach, they’ve got a chance to work on it and they’re probably smoothing things out and making sure they do what they want to do. If we have a good pre-scout, we should have a pretty good idea of some of the tactics and we’ll present that to the team using as much information as possible from our game in Chicago, versus the Winnipeg game. But there are always little tidbits from the latest games that we can look at.”
Faceoffs are a face
Two of the top five teams face off in the NHL square off this evening in Los Angeles.
The Blackhawks currently lead the league in hoops at 57 percent, while the Kings are fifth at just over 54 percent. Fifth place in the league is a familiar spot for the LA Kings, who finished fifth in the league in 82 games last season.
“Both teams are proud, I know where we are in the circle for sure” “When you have a tough match up, I think all four of their centers are good and I think our four are tough. I think it should be a better battle-level test for us than anything. When two good centermen take a draw, sometimes it comes down to who wants it more and it’s not just the center there, the wingers too.”
A big part of the process is naturally the team’s top two centers — Ange Kopitar and Phil Danault — who are among the top five in the NHL in even-strength faceoff percentage. Kopitar won more than 61 percent of his faceoffs, ranking fifth among centers with at least 150 draws. Danault answered 54 percent, a strong number from a notoriously strong faceoff winner.
Joining that crew is Blake Lizotte, who has seen his own numbers improve every season he’s been in the league, coming in at over 52 percent this season. Rasmus Kupari, below 50 percent on the season, is about 4.5 percentage points higher than a season ago. Depth is important, and Lizard’s growth in particular is noted.
“It’s very important, especially on the penalty kill,” Todd McLellan said of Lizotte. “Lizzo has become a very reliable penalty killer and if he can start in that situation, which always starts with a face-off in your end, if he’s hot on a given night, it takes minutes away from other players. That’s often a good thing and it gets him on the ice more.”
From Lizotte’s perspective, he hasn’t done a ton differently, but features experience and familiarity around the league as two possible factors.
Even winning an extra draw every other game is enough to boost your numbers by a percentage point or two. When it comes to an area like the faceoff, the line is sometimes fine, and it creates upside for Lizotte.
“To be honest, I don’t think it’s too much for me, just getting stronger and whether the league wants it or not, the older you get, you get a little more humility and I think it contributes to the percentage,” he added. “One face-off, every game, that you might not otherwise get, that adds up at the end of the year, a whole percentage point.”
An important part of the game to keep an eye on this evening.
Finally, in some great news this morning, Insiders, forward Alex Turcotte has been activated from the injured/non-roster list, starting early in training camp, and subsequently loaned to the AHL’s Ontario Reign.
Turcotte has skated with the AHL club for the past few weeks, first in a non-contact capacity and then in a full-contact jersey for the past week or so. The expectation with Turcotte is that he will skate in San Jose tonight when the King Barracuda visit, marking his first game since suffering an injury due to an illegal check to the head during the 2022 Calder Cup playoffs.
Turcotte was activated and traveled to SJ with the reign. His thoughts on the comeback:
“It’s been a pretty tough year with the uncertainty of not knowing when I’m going to play again or feel normal again, but now I’ve probably felt the best. I’m 100%.” https://t.co/xcUPDdF0Pu
— Jared Shafran (@Shafrain) November 10, 2022
We’ll have a full feature story here on LAKI tomorrow, as Jared Shafran chats with Turcotte about his recovery process and return to game action, as well as his thoughts on his first game back this evening. A great sign of progress for Turcotte, who is easy to forget is just 21 years old. Kempe……..Vilardi……..Patience.
Kings and Blackhawks, tonight at 7:30 PM from downtown Los Angeles! Will see you.
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