WHO: Los Angeles Kings (26-17-6) @ Philadelphia Flyers (20-21-7)
WHAT: NHL REGULAR SEASON GAMES
WHEN: Tuesday 24 January at 16:00 Pacific Ocean
WHERE: Wells Fargo Center – Philadelphia, PA
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: Bally Sports West – AUDIO – iHeart Radio – TWITTER: @DooleyLAK & @LAKings
TONIGHT’S MATCHUP: The road trip continues for the Kings in Philadelphia as they close out their season series against the Flyers.
HEAD TO HEAD: Forwards Phillip Danault and Adrian Kempe each scored when these teams met in Los Angeles earlier this month. Forward Viktor Arvidsson had an assist in that game and leads the Kings with seven points (3-4-7) against Philadephia over the past two seasons, while Danault has five points (2-3-5) in the same span.
KING’S VITALS: After an off day yesterday in Philadelphia, the Kings held a full-squad skate this morning at the Wells Fargo Center.
Goaltender Pheonix Copley was the first netminder off this morning, making him tonight’s expected starter against the Flyers tonight. Copley has faced the Flyers once in his NHL career to date, making 37 saves on 40 shots against to earn the win in January 2019.
Here you can see how the Kings lined up during this morning’s skating –
Byfield – Klov – Kempe
Iafallo – Danault – Arvidsson
Fiala – Lizotte – Anderson-Dolan
Copper – Turcotte – Fagemo
As mentioned yesterday, forward Gabe Vilardi has returned to Los Angeles and is not expected to be available for the remainder of the trip. This morning’s race gives the impression that defender Alex Edler will check back into the lineup instead of defender Tobias Bjornfot. Forward Brendan Lemieux did not play last game and appears to be out again tonight in Philadelphia. As always, we’ll see how it goes.
FLYER’S VITALS: Philadelphia has split their last six games entering tonight’s action, with a win followed by a loss in that stretch of games.
According to Jordan Hall of NBC Sports Philadelphia, goaltender Carter Hart is expected to be tonight’s starter for the Flyers. Hart has faced the Kings twice in his NHL career to date, posting a 1-0-0 record with a .926 save percentage and 2.40 goals against average.
Per Olivia Reiner of the Philadelphia Inquirer, here’s how the Flyers are expected to line up tonight with no changes expected from their game against Winnipeg on Sunday –
Flyers in warm-up vs. Winnipeg Jets
— Olivia Reiner (@ReinerOlivia) 22 January 2023
As Todd McLellan pointed out this morning, the Flyers have had a good run since defeating the Kings, posting an 8-4-0 record, including the win in Los Angeles. Since December 29, Flyers forward Travis Konecny is tied for third in the NHL with nine goals. Former Kings draft pick Nicolas Deslauriers is expected to dress tonight on the fourth line.
Danault Line, chances and role
The chances come for the second line, even if they don’t quite go in.
Over the last four games, the trio of Alex Iafallo, Phillip Danault and Viktor Arvidsson have averaged almost six scoring chances per game. Arvidsson was inches away from a highlight-reel goal in Chicago, but saw the post deflect what would have been a coast-to-coast effort. Although that average is less than one chance per match below their pace in the four games, the goals for and goals against columns are zero for and five against.
Speaking to Arvidsson and Danault today, they feel the chances have been there in that stretch and both players were happy with the way they handled their defensive responsibilities in that stretch. However, this does not mean that they are satisfied. They have set a certain standard for themselves and want to reach it every night, even understanding that everyone has stretches like this.
Danault – I think we could be a bit better, honestly. We can get more chances, be a little stronger in our matches. It hasn’t been bad, but we can definitely do better. We all want to achieve perfection, so it’s hard to be satisfied with the last few games.
Arvidsson – I think we try to play the same way every night, that’s a big part of our success, we’re consistent in our game. Obviously you have to have one or two games off at some point, or a short stretch, but we create chances and we don’t look against chances. We take on a lot of defensive duties and considering that, I think we do a good job.
Arvidsson also pointed out that the line currently gets a lot of defensive zone assignments, and he’s right. Over the last four games, they have taken 12 draws in the offensive zone, compared to 20 in the defensive zone.
That breaks down to a few factors, including their defensive prowess and Danault’s usual regularity of success in the dot. Todd McLellan is also clear that he wants that line to feel good offensively as well, remembering a time in the season when they carried the team with offensive production. It is certainly a balance that he seeks to maintain.
“It’s also our job to make them feel good offensively as well, so there are times when we have to get them some offensive faceoffs and make them feel good about the reward for checking, so there is a balance there,” McLellan said this morning. “What’s interesting about our team right now is we have 25% of the goals out of the lineup (Grundstrom, Kaliyev, Moore, Vilardi) ……so they have to come from other characters, other guys. There’s a little bit of pressure on those guys to score but not at the expense of risk and they’ve done pretty well.”
McLellan referenced the players out of the lineup at the moment, and as he noted, that’s significant from a scoring standpoint. The second line is an important part of the team’s scoring effort, but just as important as part of the team’s matchup and control efforts. McLellan also noted that he was looking for a little more from Iafallo, with getting his legs going, and felt he got that against Chicago.
It is about balance and the instruction will continue to play to win, not play to score. Despite a few losses, that line has stuck to the game plan, and the hope is that they will continue to do so, which will lead to offensive production.
“We can’t lose sight of what they’re doing defensively against some of the better players in the league, so there’s a balance there,” McLellan added. “Every line has to carry their part of the offense all year. There was a segment when they carried the team offensively, it was very easy to see. Right now it might not be that much, but others have to step up and for us to win , it must happen.”
To play C or not to play C
“They’re interchangeable parts, the way we play, they’re interchangeable on the ice. Turc had played some of this better hockey up the middle this year at the minor league level, especially when we called him up, we wanted him to feel get comfortable. Ras is getting used to being all over the place. Left, right, center, penalty, different lines, he’s a utility man and he’s getting more comfortable in that role so it makes sense to do it on that manner.”
It was Todd McLellan on his young fourth line this morning when asked about having both Alex Turcotte and Rasmus Kupari on the same line. Both players are natural centers, but have experience both at center and on the wing. When he was reunited in Chicago, McLellan selected Turcotte at center and Kupari at left, with Samuel Fagemo the third man on that line.
What McLellan said above is consistent with what AHL-Ontario head coach Marco Sturm has said, which is that he believes Turcotte’s best game has taken center stage with the Reign. Since it was his first game of the season, while Kupari has been up most of the year, perhaps it made sense to use Turcotte in a more comfortable situation. However, having both on the ice is an advantage, especially in the faceoff spot, McLellan added.
“Interestingly, during the game we had to tell them that you have a left and a right, they can each take faceoffs on their strong side, because it didn’t happen early, but it did later. It’s also a little bit of experience, and they get that.”
Both players have expressed comfort in both positions and both focused on the emphasis on wall play when discussing play on the wing.
The Kings typically direct their first forward to fill the center role, so it’s important to have both players comfortable with the responsibility at both positions, especially for a lineup with three young players.
Turcotte – I have played center a lot more, you have a lot of speed in the middle with the puck, where as a wing you make more wall plays, and you have to be good at that part of the game. (Playing wing) was a good experience for me and I feel pretty comfortable with both.
copper – Wall play is a big thing as a winger, you have to get the puck out in the d-zone, be good there. In the center it might be more responsibility in the d-zone, but I don’t mind that.
With that unit expected to play together again tonight, Turcotte should remain at center. A good first game and now the consistency factor comes into play on night two.
Finally, Insiders, a quick note on King prospect Alex Laferriere, who was selected as a nominee for the NCAA’s Hobey Baker Award, given to the top men’s collegiate hockey player each year.
From Harvard –
Laferriere, a junior forward from Chatham, NJ, is also among the NCAA leaders in scoring with 23 points (10 goals, 13 assists). A three-time ECAC Hockey Forward of the Week honoree this season, Laferriere has added a team-high four power play goals. He has scored several season highlights, including a game-winning goal in overtime at Princeton on Jan. 6 that helped Harvard rally from a 3-0 deficit for a 4-3 victory.
You can vote for Laferriere HERE to be included in the award’s 10 finalists, with voting up to and including March 26.
Kings and Flyers, tonight at 16 Pacific from Philadelphia!