The Kings have won both of their games since losing in Chicago last Thursday, toppling the Florida Panthers 5-4 and the Minnesota Wild 1-0. Meanwhile, the Blackhawks played just one game, losing 4-0 to the Jets.
The Kings are now 8-6-1 on the season, third in the Pacific Division behind the Vegas Golden Knights and Seattle Kraken, respectively. Los Angeles is achieving this success despite some pretty horrendous goaltending, as Jonathan Quick now has a .897 save percentage on the season and Calvin Peterson — expected to take the reins — has been even worse at .868.
The good news for Los Angeles is that their offense remains lethal. as Gabriel Vilardi is riding a two-game goal streak and leads the Kings this season with 10. Other young players making a difference for the Kings this season are Arthur Kaliyev, who has nine points in 14 games and Michael Anderson, who’s averaging 20:52 on the blue line.
Against the Panthers, the Kings saw scoring from Anze Kopitar, Viktor Arvidsson and Trevor Moore, each of whom got two points. Kopitar now has 13 points in 15 games on the season, while Arvidsson, after an injury-riddled 2021-22 campaign, is getting more game time and Moore has 10 points in 15 games. Offseason addition Kevin Fiala is second on the team with 14 points, including 11 assists — tied with Kopitar for the team lead.
After being one of the better possession teams in the league last year, the Kings are back up there again under head coach Todd McLellan. Los Angeles has a 53.18 percent shot share at 5-on-5, (sixth in the NHL), and a 54.42 expected goal share (eighth).
The Kings are also allowing just 2.38 expected goals per 60 at 5-on-5 so far, the seventh-fewest in the NHL. If the Kings’ goaltenders could actually start, you know, tending the net, then Los Angeles’ could really improved upon its record. Right now, the Kings have the 10th worst PDO at 5-on-5, mainly due to the fifth-worst 5-on-5 save percentage in the league (for reference, the Blackhawks are sixth-best in that stat).
Los Angeles is probably a better team than it looked like during their previous outing against Chicago, a team that’s probably not as good as its 5-5-2 record and fourth-place standing in the Central Division. The Kings were simply unable to get much of anything past Arvid Soderblom in that game, despite dominating possession.
The Blackhawks, meanwhile, are coming off four full days of rest, having not played since Saturday. While the Blackhawks are riding a dismal effort against Winnipeg into this game, that amount of space from that contest may have lifted some spirits. It was a team effort that beat the Kings last week, with six Blackhawks scoring a point — including Jonathan Toews’ game-winning goal. Soderblom was excellent although he’s probably the backup this evening as Petr Mrazek, who was expected to be the Blackhawks’ starting goaltender coming into the season, has been taken off injured reserve and appears ready for his first start since Oct. 21.
The Kings need this game more than the Blackhawks do. Calgary, who dominated the Pacific Division last year, has three games in hand and is five points behind. Allowing the Flames four games to catch up is something the Kings likely want to avoid. Meanwhile, the Blackhawks have seen the bottom fall out with the St. Louis Blues (Editor’s note: this) in the race for Connor Bedard.
Let’s tank, Hawks.
Tale of the tape (statistics from last season)
Blackhawks — Statistic — Kings
46.64% (28th) — 5-on-5 Corsi For — 54.15% (5th)
45.43% (28th) — 5-on-5 Expected goals for — 53.36% (7th)
2.60 (29th) — Goals per game — 2.87 (20th)
3.44 (25th) — Goals against per game — 2.83 (10th)
49.6% (16th) — Faceoffs — 52.2% (5th)
19.2% (21st) — Power play — 16.1% (27th)
76.2% (24th) — Penalty kill — 76.7% (22nd)
Projected lineups (subject to change)
Athanasiou — Domi — P. Kane
Kurashev — Toews — Raddysh
Entwistle — Dickinson — Lafferty
Katchouk — R. Johnson — Khaira
J. Johnson — McCabe
Tinordi — Murphy
Roos — C. Jones
Kempe — Kopitar — Vilardi
Moore — Danault — Arvidsson
Fiala — Kupari — Grundstrom
Clarke — Lizotte — Kaliyev
Anderson — Doughty
Durzi — Roy
Edler — Clarke
How to watch
When: 9:30 p.m. CT
Where: Crypto.com Arena, Los Angeles
Radio: WGN 720
Live stream: Sling TV