Well, we've seen plenty of new coaches, why not be the first team to square off against the Kings in their first game since the Carter-Johnson deal? Most of us know the story with the LA Kings, and it's what forced them into a big move near the deadline, they are the league's worst goal scoring squad. LA's penchant for keeping the puck out of their own net and their opponent's net in some ways makes them the Bizzaro Hawks. Despite averaging only a shot and a half less (per game) than the Hawks, the Kings can't seem to solve opposing netminders, which is a trend that hasn't let up in the month of February. Losers of 4 in a row and 3-6-2 in the month of February, Los Angeles has averaged 1.63 G/game over their last 11.
For nearly every criticism that's thrown at their offense, they can be equally lauded in their ability to limit shots and goals against at 28.3 and 2.10, respectively. The Toews-less Hawks will mostly likely have trouble getting pucks past Jonathan Quick, who at 3rd in the league in both GAA and SV%, has cemented his status as one of the game premier netminders. The Kings won't suffer too much in the goals against department now that they've shipped Jack Johnson (and his career -90) to Columbus. Word on the street is that steady two-way rookie Dman, Slava Voynov, is poised bring much of what JJ brought to Hollywood, but with a bit less snarl and a bit more intelligent decision making. Voynov is one sixth of a very solid Dcorps that includes Drew Doughty, Willie Mitchell, Rob Scuderi, Matt Greene, and Alec Martinez. With Johnson out of the mix, the pairings may be shuffled around somewhat. I assume we'll see Mitchell, Scuderi, and Greene on separate pairings, and paired with some combination of Doughty, Voynov, and Martinez.
Is the greater Los Angeles area ready for the Night at the Roxbury act that will be the reunited philly duo of Richards and Carter? According to Rudy Kelly @ BOC, the Kings top 6 will look something like this:
-The top-six is as follows:
"Hey Darryl, who do you want on the draw? Him? Me? Me? Him? Him? Me?"
As many assumed when Carter was acquired, he'll be placed on a top 6 wing spot to generate as much offense as possible. The Roxbury guys will be joined by young power forward
Dustin Penner (turd), Dwight King. LA will be well rested, and due to the recent trade, fired up to impress in their home building.
The Hawks will have their work cut out for them tonight, and considering the situation (on the road, datsyuk out vs. Det, 1st Carter game), this might be the toughest test for a team without its Captain, best center, and leading goal scorer, Jonathan Toews. As you've heard by now, Toews, Hammer, and Monty did not make the trip to California, which is more an issue for the forward corps than it is the D-corps. I haven't seen anything from the beats on lineup changes, but I assume crow will go tonight, with Emery getting a shot at his former squad tomorrow night. John Scott has gotten starts against the Kings in the past, let's hope that trend doesn't continue this evening.
With LA's top two centers being of the defensively responsible variety, Q needs to spread the wealth. Based on the way the Dallas game ended up, we might finally see Patrick Sharp start a game in the middle. I'm thinking Sharp at 1C, Kruger at 2, and Bolland at 3 with a pick your poison checking assignment between the Kopitar and Richards lines. Tonight would be as good a night as any for the powerplay to chip in (despite LA's 5th ranked kill), as goals at even strength will most likely be hard to come by.
Let's get things right in the white sweaters, boys. Let's go Hawks!