The Oilers finally snapped their losing streak on Wednesday in Arizona and now they’ll head to Los Angeles looking to start a streak in the other direction with a game against the basement-dwelling Kings. Here are your game day notes.
1. The Kings are currently in a tie for dead last in the league with the Philadelphia Flyers and Ottawa Senators. That said, they have played better hockey as of late than they did in the first few months of the season. L.A. is 2-3 since the Christmas break, which is pretty good for them. They also had a four-game winning streak back in late-December, beating San Jose, Winnipeg, Vegas, and Arizona.
2. The Oilers and Kings have met twice so far this season. The first game was extremely disappointing, with L.A. picking up a 5-2 win because the Oilers didn’t wake up until the third period. The second meeting a few days later was better, as the Oilers edged out a 3-2 win, but it was still a lot closer than you’d like against a basement team like the Kings.
3. The duo of Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown have torched the Oilers so far in their two meetings this year. Kopitar was an absolute beast in the first meeting of the season, scoring a beautiful breakaway goal and picking up two assists while helping Brown to a hat-trick. Kopitar added another two assists in the second meeting while Brown also netted another goal. The duo has combined for nine points against the Oilers in two games this season.
4. The Kings are the league’s worst offensive team by a wide margin. Through 42 games, they’ve scored only 94 goals. The 30th ranked offence in the league, Arizona, has 103 goals. Regular names you’d expect to see producing for the Kings simply aren’t. Tyler Toffoli has just six goals and 15 points, Jeff Carter has only seven goals and 18 points, and Ilya Kovalchuk has only seven goals and 17 points. Dustin Brown is currently the only player on the team on pace to eclipse 20 goals.
5. Anze Kopitar is on pace to score only 54 points, but you can give him a pass because he does so much of the heavy lifting for this club. Kopitar logs 22:38 minutes per game, the third most in the league among forwards behind only Alex Barkov and Connor McDavid (of course). Kopitar also plays the majority of his minutes in defensive zone situations and against the other team’s best competition.
6. Like I said earlier, Kopitar was a beast in the first meeting of the season between these two teams. McDavid was his most frequent opponent (among Oilers forwards) at even strength and held the Oilers captain to just two shot attempts and no high danger chances. In the second meeting, Kopitar held McDavid to just one shot attempt when the two were on the ice together. In order to win this game, the McDavid line will have to beat the Kopitar line or the Oilers’ depth will have to capitalize on the putrid Kings roster when Kopitar isn’t on the ice because I imagine he’ll be stapled to McDavid for most of the game.
7. The Oilers will get a big boost tonight offensively with Alex Chiasson reportedly set to return to the lineup. Chiasson has been out of action since the team’s loss to Vancouver after the Christmas break. Chiasson is the only Oiler outside the Big Three who’s producing any offence. With Drake Caggiula out of the mix, Edmonton’s highest-scoring forwards after the Big Three and Chiasson are Kyle Brodziak and Jesse Puljujarvi with three goals each. In the three games Chiasson missed, all of the Oilers goals came from McDavid, Draisaitl, or Nugent-Hopkins save for one scored by Caleb Jones against San Jose.
8. Kris Russell is also a game-time decision for tonight’s game. The Oilers’ blueline has obviously missed both Russell and Oscar Klefbom, so getting the former back will be a nice boost. It’ll be interesting to see what the Oilers blueline looks like when fully healthy. Caleb Jones is the only blueliner who doesn’t need waivers to go back down to the AHL, but he’s been excellent since coming up. Is sending him down going to make the team better? Then who goes down when Klefbom and Andrej Sekera are ready to return?
9. If the Oilers can manage to win tonight and tomorrow, they’ll bring themselves to a tie with Anaheim in the standings with one game in hand. The Western Conference is looking very competitive right now. The Vegas Golden Knights have exploded and are now challenging for top spot in the Conference and the Dallas Stars are 3-0-1 since the team got called out by CEO Jim Lites. Thankfully for the Oilers, regression seems to be catching up with Anaheim as they’ve lost seven games in a row. Still, the Oilers need to jump Minnesota, Vancouver, and Anaheim to get into the second wild card.
10. The Kings are doing “90s Night” tonight and Fox Sports West, who broadcasts Kings games, will be bringing back the FoxTrax Glow Puck for the game. For the most part, people hated the Glow Puck back in 1995 because it was tacky, but as a one-off thing for 90s night, I think it’s a funny thing to do.
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Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 1/05/2019 – 12:00 pm MST