Preview 11/8 – Optional Skate Today + Line Changes After 5, Kaliyev Progression, ESPN(2)
WHO: Los Angeles Kings (7-6-1) vs. Minnesota Wild (5-5-1)
WHAT: NHL REGULAR SEASON GAME
WHEN: Tuesday, November 8 at 7:30 PM Pacific
WHERE: Crypto.com Arena – Los Angeles, CA
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: ESPN+ / Hulu – AUDIO – iHeart Radio -TWITTER: @DooleyLAK & @LAKings
TONIGHT’S MATCH: The Kings continue a four-game homestand tonight as they host the Minnesota Wild for their first home opener of the season.
HEAD TO HEAD: The Kings skated to a 7-6 victory over the Wild in the third game of the season, winning on road ice in Minnesota. Forwards Adrian Kempe (2-1-3) and Kevin Fiala (1-2-3) led the Kings offensively in the win, while forward Anze Kopitar had three assists. Eight Kings in total had multi-point games, with defenseman Matt Roy (1-1-2) and forward Gabe Vilardi (1-1-2) also expected to play.
VITAL KINGS: The Kings were on the ice this morning for a partial team skate, following a full team practice yesterday morning in El Segundo.
Jonathan Quick was not on the ice this morning and is expected to get the nod again this evening, his third straight start between the pipes. All-time against the Wild, Quick has posted a 16-11-7 record, with a .902 save percentage and a 2.63 goals-against average.
Without the full morning skate to confirm, we won’t have a real idea of tonight’s lineup, but here’s a projection based on yesterday’s practice and who was late after today’s morning skate:
Kempe – Kopitar – Vilardi
Moore – Danault – Arvidsson
Vial – Copper – Grundstrom
Anderson – Doughty
It seems likely that the Kings will roll with the same lineup that defeated Florida on Saturday evening. Forward Jaret Anderson-Dolan and defenseman Brandt Clarke were the two skaters on the ice late, along with goaltender Cal Petersen, indicating they would be out tonight. It is not always indicative, but it is a good sign that we should not expect any change.
WILD LIFE: Minnesota has had an up-and-down start to the season, but has evened its 5-5-1 record with points from six of eight games after three road losses.
Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury has started 9 of 11 games to open the season and is expected to start again tonight against the Kings. Fleury started the game in Minnesota in October, but allowed four goals on 14 shots and was substituted after 20 minutes. All-time against the Kings, Fleury is 12-8-4, with a .914 save percentage and a 2.64 goals-against average.
According to The Athletic’s Michael Russo, here’s how the Wild lined up during yesterday’s practice:
Via Verda-Eriksson I-Boldy
Beckman-Foligno (may travel) not on regular line
— Michael Russo (@RussoHockey) November 7, 2022
Forward Jordan Greenway is expected to return to action this evening in Los Angeles, following a shoulder injury. Regular teammate Marcus Foligno is also on the trip, but is not expected to play tonight against the Kings with an upper-body injury. Former Anaheim shortstop Joseph Cramarossa is expected to make his season debut on the fourth line.
5 Games in
“He’s balanced our lines and I think he’s helped us win some games.”
It’s been five games since the Kings made their first substantial change to their front lines this season, following a 6-4 loss against Winnipeg.
Although the changes affected three of the four lines, we will cover the Lemieux – Lizotte – Kaliyev unit a bit. The main change was to move Gabe Vilardi to the line with Anze Kopitar and Adrian Kempe, with Kevin Fiala next to Rasmus Kupari and Carl Grundstrom.
The changes, so far, have benefited those involved. Starting with Kopitar’s group, the main improvements have come from a renewed commitment to defensive play, with a significant drop in against-the-numbers opportunities from moves. They’ve also given up just two goals against in five games and both came against Florida on Saturday, the only game they’ve been outscored in so far. A look at the chances against Kopitar/Kempe, with and without Vilardi.
HDCA: 12.7 / 21.5
SCA: 28.1 / 40.5
US: 55.2 / 70.0
“They’ve played better, they’ve given up less, they’ve settled in and they’ve played a lot more toward what I think they can do, what they think they can do, from a defensive perspective,” McLellan said this morning.
Offensively, the chemistry is still building, but Kopitar has been one point per game (1-4-5) since the trade, while Vilardi has four points. Kempe has just two points, but his shot attempts per game are up from 3.4 to 4.0, as are his high-danger looks (0.6 to 1.0). It’s a work in progress there, but the group is +1 in 5v5 scoring and has bee. on the right side of chances for four of their five games together. Good progress so far.
“It’s coming,” Kopitar said this morning. “Obviously, it’s a work in progress and there are still some things we can definitely do better, but we’re comfortable with each other and we’re finding some chemistry together.”
Fiala’s new line has thrived offensively since the moves, with Fiala himself scoring seven points (2-5-7) in his last five games played. When McLellan talks about balance, Kupari (1-1-2) and Grundstrom (2-2-4) are perfect examples. Having Fiala on this line has made each player that much better, with Kupari moving from the AHL to the NHL and looking right at home at the 3C spot and Grundstrom moving up in the lineup and increasing his production.
“I think Kevin is where he is. Kevin opened up a couple of players in Kupari and Grunny. Grunny scored a good amount at the end, had a glorious opportunity in Chicago with an open net and just missed a good play from Kev. He’s balanced our lines and I think he’s helped us win some games.”
In terms of possession metrics and chances, no player had a better game than Arthur Kaliyev on Saturday against Florida.
Kaliyev’s shot attempt rating was 10 for 1 against. The scoring chances were 7-0 in their favor and the high-danger ones were 5-0. Kaliyev himself had just two looks, but both were of the high-danger variety, and he picked up an assist on a third-period goal from fellow lineman Blake Lizotte.
Kaliyev’s stat line as a whole has been solid, with nine points (4-5-9) in 12 games played and is currently on a four-game hitting streak entering tonight’s action, with points of six of his last seven when he extended a lap. bit That total includes a team-leading three power-play goals, a total that puts him just outside the top ten in the NHL. Here he is showing improvement in the second year and that is a good sign of progression.
“He’s improving, like he did last year,” Todd McLellan said of Kaliyev. “There’s a lot of responsibility on a second-year player. You’re responsible every day for your game and you have to bring it and Arthur is figuring that part out in Year 2, but he’s improving and working hard to improve in those areas.”
While the calls to see Kaliyev play higher in the lineup are understandable, the Kings have seen a new-look third line thrive in the five games they’ve skated together and a top six they want to see more of. The first line features the top two scorers on the roster and the second line has re-formed since last season as one of the most cohesive and effective units in the NHL, combining for two goals against Florida.
There is also the notion of not fixing what isn’t broken.
Kaliyev is currently in a family home with Blake Lizotte and Brendan Lemieux, a line that played together for large stretches last season. When combined this season, they control more than 60 percent of shot attempts and just over 57 percent of scoring chances and high-danger looks. Kaliyev’s numbers fall below 50 percent in two of those three categories when looking at his totals without the other two.
“He seems to do more with those two for whatever reason,” McLellan added. “I liked how this line played in the last moment, when they are together again they have something. They hold each other accountable, sometimes the three of them argue about what should or shouldn’t happen, but once the play starts again, they’re a pretty good unit.”
Ultimately, we’ll have to see how Kaliyev moves up the lineup to truly realize his potential. And that will come with time. For now, it’s all about finding consistency as a group and winning hockey games. The line as it is currently assembled is an important part of doing that.
The world leader
Finally, Insiders, there’s not ESPN2 on your dial, but ESPN(2) for the next three days.
The Kings will play nationally on ESPN+ tonight against Minnesota and Thursday against Chicago. The trio of Steve Levy, Ray Ferraro and Linda Cohn will have the call tonight, with Cohn at this morning’s skate. The crew switches to Marco Monaco and Cassie Campbell-Pascall for Thursday’s contest alongside Cohn. Tonight’s games will be available to everyone with an ESPN+ subscription regardless of blackouts, meaning you can stream the game in the LA market.
If you don’t have ESPN+, I accept best offers in the comment on my login. Or I’ll look away when you look elsewhere.
— ESPN PR (@ESPNPR) November 8, 2022
Kings and Wild, tonight at 7:30pm DTLA! Leaving early today in anticipation of California drivers in the rain. Woof. See you there (hopefully).
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