And so we've reached the end of yet another Circus Trip as the Ramblin' Boys of Pleasure visit the Kings tonight in the House that Kobe Built. The Kings are just returning home themselves after a trip out east that has seen them drop 3 of 4 away from Staples to some inferior competition (Ottawa and Buffalo specifically), and 5 of their last 6 overall. Though the loss to Ottawa was slightly controversial as it appeared the preternaturally handsome Ryan Smyth tied the game with 3 seconds left, it was ruled to be redirected with a high stick, and the Kings left Canada's capital empty handed. Over that six game stretch, the Kings usually stout defense has allowed a total of 25 goals on 179 shots, good for only an .860 save percentage for Jonathans Quick and Bernier. All of this has come with defensive wunderkind Drew Doughty back in the lineup after missing time with brown brain. While Doughnuts has only put up 1G and 7A in 15 games, he's still at a +7 during his 24:19 a night of ice time. He's L.A.'s answer to 2009-2010 Duncan Keith, as he plays in absolutely every situation for them, and plays well. Things don't get any easier past him on the blue line, as Jack Johnson is certainly a threat to jump into the play, and Rob Scuderi, Matt Greene, and Willie Mitchell are three of the nastiest motherfuckers you'll want to run into in their own end.
Offesnsively, the Kings are surprisingly being led by Justin Williams, who leads them in all three categories with 9G, 13A, and 22 points. Williams has always been a slightly more physical version of Patrick Sharp (the winger), which has led to his numerous injury woes. Now that he's healthy and playing with top flight linemates, he's clearly taking advantage of the opportunity. Anze Kopitar, Jarret Stoll, and Dustin Brown don't trail Williams by much on the stat sheet though, which speaks to the Kings balanced attack. But as we've said before, aside from Kopitar, there isn't a lot of top-end scoring on the Kings, just a TON of secondary scoring. As such they play a straightforward north-south game where they fire the puck from any and every angle, which also results in their offense being only middling at 2.8 goals per game (15th) and 15.5 percent on the power play (20th). This means that Hawk defensemen will need to be just as good as they were yesterday at clearing pucks from the slot area, as the Kings will be there, and be there in waves.
As for our Men of Four Feathers, they're looking to punctuate what's been an up-and-down trip to this point on a solid note. As was suspected, Corey Crawford will get the nod in net tonight, and one would think that the defensive pairings would remain the same from yesterday as well (despite the fact that Nick Boynton needs a seat). Up front, Tracey Myers has repoted that The Pope-ah, Fernando Pisani, will miss tonight's game with an upper body injury, which puts John Scott in at forward. About the best we can hope for in this game is that Scott can goad one of the King blue liners into joining him for a nice 5-minute rest in the box, because Scott's ill-suited to be useful in any other way against this team. While the Kings defensemen are as rugged, solid, and ill-tempered as any corps in the league, aside from Doughty and Johnson, none of them are the fleetest of foot, and only Doughty's really that interested in his own zone between the two of them. Hawk forwards will have to keep their feet moving at a constant to fight through checks and win board battles. From Jump St. the plan for zone entry needs to be chip-and-chase, because the east-west, extra stickhandle bullshit at the King line will grind things to a halt in a fucking hurry. Hopefully the Hawks will play like the bus isn't already running, and we can all be spared having to hear that atrocious Randy Newman song, and it's going to take the Hawks best effort of the trip by a wide margin to keep that from happening. Let's go Hawks.