Like a blogger in their parent's basement, the Winnipeg Jets (5-2-1) continue to overstay their welcome at home. Fifth on this homestand's lineup card are the Los Angeles Kings (5-3-0), who after dropping their first three games have now rattled off five straight wins. Last season, Winnipeg went 2-1-0 against Los Angeles in surprisingly high scoring affairs: a 4-1 loss, a 5-4 shootout win and a 5-2 win.
Catch the game at 7:00 PM Central Time on FS-W, TSN3 and TSN 1290 radio.
Keys to the Game: Winnipeg Jets
Tender Loving Care: The Kings' 'TLC' line of Tyler Toffoli and Milan Lucic centred by Jeff Carter has been LA's offensive driver. Combining thus far for 18 points, the trio account for 45% of LA's output this season. Special care needs to be taken to shut them down.
Where Have All The Pucks Stops Gone?: The Jets have now allowed 13 goals in the past three games, good for save percentages of .902, .871 and .867. Unsurprisingly, the result has been a mediocre 1-1-1 record. Whether Pavelec or Hutchinson is in net tonight, better is the expectation. The Kings are a possession juggernaut, not a goal scoring one.
You Be You: I was wrong on the goaltending and very wrong on the score, but one part of my Sunday prediction came true: the game against Minnesota continued the improved fancy stat trend which began against Tampa Bay, with Winnipeg decisively winning the even strength possession battle. So far as opponents go, the Los Angeles Kings provide one of if not the stiffest challenge in this respect; this will be interesting.
Keys to the Game: Los Angeles Kings
Diversify the Offence: Remember how I mentioned the Kings' 'TLC' line and how they've been rather good? That's all fine and dandy, but Los Angeles needs more from the others. At the moment, LA is averaging 2.00 goals per game, good for 25th in the NHL and a rather slim margin for error. The Kings will have to hope that Anze Kopitar and Tanner Pearson scoring Sunday against Edmonton is a sign of things to come for that second line. Marian Gaborik on the other hand, has 1 goal and 0 assists in 8 games.
The Boy Who Would Be King: Can we talk about 23-year-old Tyler Toffoli for a second? In eight games, the kid's got six goals. While he won't continue scoring on 30% of his shots, he's found a rhythm alongside Lucic and Carter, resulting in 2:22 minutes more per game than last season, including a bump from 1:26 to 2:12 PP TOI. In 2014-15, Toffoli had 23 goals and 49 points in 76 games. Might 60 points be in the cards this year?
You Also Be You: While there have been some blips along the way (see: Sharks, San Jose), for the most part LA seems to be back to their corsi worshipping routine. This is what they do, this is what we should expect. The Kings don't score much, but nor do they allow many goals against, and making the playoffs this season might be as simple as improving on their league worst 2-8 shootout record from last season. The formula for success is still there, especially in an eclectic at best, garbage at worst Pacific Division. It'll just be a matter of grinding out those regulation wins over 82 games.
Player to Boo Mercilessly
The Ghost of Mike Richards. Chants of "Where's Mike Richards?" might serve to remind Kings leading scorer Jeff Carter of happier, bromance filled days. And considering the pain and suffering he has and continues to go through, General Manager Dean Lombardi may sooner forfeit the game than endure further torment.
On the Richards-Carter relationship one Flyer told me: Mike likes Jeff but Jeff loves Mike. Carter can't pack fast enough. #heroworship— John Boruk (@JohnBorukCSN) February 24, 2012
Without a doubt, the realization of what happened to Mike Richards is the most traumatic episode of my career...At times, I think that I will never recover from it. It is difficult to trust anyone right now-and you begin to question whether you can trust your own judgment.
My Tampa Bay prediction went extremely well, my Minnesota Wild one not so much. As for this game, while the Los Angeles Kings will dominate the possession battle, there will be no avalanche of goals to show for it. The Kings will strike first in the, well, 1st, Winnipeg will tie it in the 2nd, and Kyle frigging Clifford of all people will score the game winner for LA in the 3rd.
Long story short, LA wins 2-1 in regulation. Come at me, superfans.