Game Day Preview #29, New Jersey Devils @ Los Angeles Kings – Jewels From The Crown
HOW TO WATCH
Game Time: 7:30 PM Pacific
TV: Fox Sports West
Radio: iHeart Radio
The Opposition: All About the Jersey
Our Lines, They Make Sense Again, Maybe
While the practice lines may not hold, given the uncertainty about Nikita Scherbak’s visa status, things are slowly returning to a grouping that makes somewhat more sense.
Kyle Clifford, bless his heart, appears to have finished his stint on the second line, going back down to the fourth line where he can go back to being a wrecking ball as much as his heart desires. While Clifford posted some good looking possession stats during his second-line stint, scoring for the Clifford/Carter/Toffoli trio was nonexistent at best. You’d have to think at least some of those chances could have been converted with someone with slightly better offensive instincts on the left wing.
In his place, Brendan Leipsic will get a chance up there. He looked fine in his Kings debut on Tuesday, registering four shots in just under 12 minutes of play. Leipsic, along with Anze Kopitar (25:53 TOI) and Tyler Toffoli (16:10 TOI) led the team in shots. Listening to Jarrett Stoll in the post-game broadcast try to find a polite way to say that Leipsic may have been able to create more chances if he were with more skilled linemates, without actually insulting the Kings’ fourth line, was something magnificent to behold. Anyhow, the Kings are looking for something to help jumpstart Carter (1G, 3A in his last 10 games) and Toffoli (2A in his last 10 games) perhaps even more than anyone else in the lineup, and they’re hoping that Leipsic might fit the bill.
If Nikita Scherbak is to debut, he’ll play alongside Adrian Kempe and Matt Luff. All three are offensively minded players, so they should get a ton of cushy offensive zone deployment, and hopefully get them off the ice before play goes back in the other direction. If Scherbak can’t go, then Austin Wagner will draw back in.
Let us start with the bad news and then move forward into some good news.
Keith “King Killer” Kinkaid is 3-0-0 with two shutouts in four games against LAK. I asked him if there was something he could point to for the success and he said he didn’t want to jinx it.
— Abbey Mastracco (@AbbeyMastracco) December 6, 2018
Thanks to injuries and inconsistency from usual Devils starter Corey Schneider, Kinkaid has taken on the role of starter for the team. He’s been doing well with it, and the numbers piling up in the loss column for him say more about the team in front of him than his own play.
It doesn’t matter who the New Jersey Devils are coached by, their team identity is as much “clog up the neutral zone” as it ever was. The Kings have struggled all season to gain the offensive zone when facing off against teams that make getting through the middle a challenge. That Calgary game with the, like, six shots total is still pretty fresh in my mind, so I’m not particularly looking forward to watching the Kings to struggle to gain the zone, and when they do, get pushed to the outside.
The Devils don’t allow a ton of shots, especially from the dangerous net-front area. Look at that giant terrifying blue blob right in front of the net, showing the Devils allow less than the league average in shots there.
The bulk of unblocked shots against the Devils come from spots that don’t exactly scream danger. Back by the blue line? Most of those aren’t going to go in. Good luck, defensemen, we’ll need you.
The good news, if there is any, for the Kings tonight is that the Devils have struggled mightily this year. They sit last in the Metropolitan Division and are currently mired in a six-game losing streak. In fact, they’ve only won two of their last ten games — a 3-0 shutout over the Flyers and a 5-2 win against Montreal. Four of their losses have come in overtime, and two of those because the Devils weren’t able to hold their lead. Six of the Devils’ total losses this season have come because of a blown lead.
If there’s one key for the Kings to take from the Devils’ stats this year, it’s that they’re not particularly good at coming back from being down early. They are winless this season when trailing in the first, and have just one win when trailing after two periods.
So if the Kings can get through the neutral zone, and if the Kings can solve Keith Kinkaid, it’s highly possible that they could build a lead and then actually keep it.
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