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Tampa Bay Lightning at Los Angeles Kings preview: Best in the east versus the worst in the west

Tampa Bay Lightning at Los Angeles Kings: Game 41

Time: 10:30 pm Eastern Time

Location: Staples Center

Broadcast/Streaming: SunS, FSW

Opponent SBNation Site: Jewels from the Crown

Preview:

The Lightning continue their California road trip tonight as they head to Los Angeles to face the Kings. This game is a matchup between the best and arguably the worst team in the NHL. The Lightning are comfortably ahead of all teams in the standings. The Kings are second last in points but have played more games than any of the teams with less points.

Normally, this is where I would try to say something interesting about the team the Lightning are playing. But the Kings have nothing interesting to note. Not only are they bad, they’re also boring. The Senators might be worse but at least they have Mark Stone, Thomas Chabot, and an organization that operates like a poorly run circus to keep things spicy.

The Kings have Anze Kopitar and not much else. Alex Iafallo plays on their top line for goodness sake. I like Alex Iafallo but come on. How is that an NHL hockey team? And why did Ilya Kovalchuk decide to go there? And why is he staying there? Just go back to Russia and score 100 goals. It would have to be more fun than playing for this team.

In fairness to the Kings, they’ve played some of their best hockey lately with points in seven of their last ten games including five wins. It hasn’t been enough to get them out of the cellar but they’re getting close.

The Lightning have the same injuries as last game. J.T. Miller has not had a change in his status. That probably means Adam Erne gets to stay in the lineup. Last game, he took Miller’s spot on the third line and Mathieu Joseph moved to the fourth line. Look for that to continue tonight.

On defense, the rotation through the seven defenders should continue. If the pattern holds, tonight will be a day off for Dan Girardi. That means Anton Stralman bumps up to the top pair to play with Victor Hedman and the second two pairs remain what they have been for most of the season.

This will give the Kings their first look at Erik Cernak who they traded for Ben Bishop at the 2016 trade deadline. That trade looks pretty terrible in retrospect as the Kings missed the playoffs that season and barely used Bishop while Cernak looks to be rounding into a solid top four option for the foreseeable future.

Comparison chart:


The Kings play low event in hockey, which in fairness to them is a good idea for a bad team. Their defensive numbers look good but when combined with their awful offense, the end result is mediocrity at best. And while they’ve been getting points lately, their shot and expected goal share numbers have been even worse than normal. That suggests that those recent results are more of a mirage than a trend.

On paper, this is a one-sided game. The disparity in talent between these teams is as overwhelming as any two teams in the NHL. The Lightning haven’t lost since November. That said, I’m sure the Kings will win tonight because that’s how the NHL works.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Forward Lines

Tyler Johnson – Brayden PointNikita Kucherov

Ondrej PalatSteven StamkosYanni Gourde

Alex KillornAnthony CirelliAdam Erne

Mathieu Joseph – Cedric PaquetteRyan Callahan

J.T. Miller (injured) – Danick Martel

Defense Pairings

Victor Hedman – Anton Stralman

Ryan McDonagh – Erik Cernak

Braydon CoburnMikhail Sergachev

Dan Girardi

Goaltenders

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Louis Domingue

Los Angeles Kings

Forward Lines

Alex IafalloAnze KopitarDustin Brown

Ilya KovalchukJeff CarterTyler Toffoli

Brandon Leipsic — Kempe — Matt Luff

Kyle CliffordNate ThompsonAustin Wagner

Defense Pairings

Derek ForbortDrew Doughty

Jake MuzzinSean Walker

Dion Phaneuf — Oscar Fantenberg

Goalies

Jack Campbell

Jonathan Quick

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