12/3 Preview – Today’s Vitals + Scouting Carolina, Third Line Thoughts, Kings Recall Dudas

WHO: Los Angeles Kings (13-9-4) vs. Carolina Hurricanes (13-6-5)
WHAT: NHL REGULAR SEASON GAME
WHEN: Saturday, November 3 @ 7:30 PM Pacific
WHERE: Crypto.com Arena – Los Angeles, CA
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: Bally Sports West – AUDIO – iHeart Radio – TWITTER: @DooleyLAK & @LAKings

TONIGHT’S MATCHUP: The Kings conclude a four-game homestand this evening as they host the Carolina Hurricanes for the first time this season.

HEAD-TO-HEAD: Forwards Blake Lizotte and Adrian Kempe led the Kings a season ago with two goals each from two games against Carolina, while defenseman Alex Edler tallied two assists.

KINGS VITALS: The Kings had a full off day yesterday and as is typically the case, took the ice for a full-team morning skate today in El Segundo.

Goaltender Jonathan Quick appears set to make his fifth consecutive start this evening as he was the first netminder off the ice after this morning’s skate. Quick has faced Carolina 11 times previously in his NHL career, posting a 6-5-0 record with a .911 save percentage and a 2.85 goals-against average.

For reference, last game’s alignment is embedded below –

Todd McLellan indicated that there could be one change on the backend tonight, but it won’t be known for sure until after warmups. From what was available from this morning’s skate, that change would appear to be in the form of defenseman Sean Walker, who could check in. As for who exactly, and if it actually happens, we’ll see come puck drop tonight. Forward Alex Iafallo continues to skate in a regular contact jersey, signaling that he is close to being able to return to action, but he was late today for extra work. Forward Aidan Dudas was recalled after morning skate and is also an option should he be needed.

HURRICANES VITALS: Carolina is currently in the middle of a strange set of six consecutive away games. The trip is off to a 2-0 start, with wins over Pittsburgh and St. Louis, with games against Los Angeles and Anaheim followed by games in New York and Detroit. Not exactly a geographically normal slate.

No word yet from Carolina’s morning skate regarding a starting goaltender, but we’ll Pyotr Kochetkov as the projected starter for this writing. Kochetkov has never faced the Kings in his NHL career. After he was recalled from the AHL in early-November, Kochetkov has been the goaltender of record in 8 of his team’s last 11 games, posting a .916 save percentage and a 2.30 goals-against average.

Per Walt Ruff of CarolinaHurricanes.com, here’s how tonight’s opponent lined up last time out –

Carolina activated forward Teuvo Teravainen from injured reserve between Thursday’s win in St. Louis and now, with his return a possibility tonight. Defenseman Brett Pesce is set to play in his 500th career NHL game this evening for the visitors. Over the last 30 years, no NHL defenseman has more points against the Kings than Brent Burns.

Notes –
Conquering Carolina
Tonight’s opponent presents a difficult proposition.

Last season’s Carolina Hurricanes were the NHL’s stingiest team defensively, leading the league, the good way, in goals against. Despite an injury to starting goaltender Frederik Andersen, Carolina still ranks inside the NHL’s Top-10 in terms of goals allowed, ranking ninth at 2.79 per-game. They’ve been nearly identical, however, in the 12 games Andersen was available for, versus the 12 he hasn’t been, separated by just a single game.

The Hurricanes controlled the most recent matchup with the Kings by a 5-1 final last December and present a tough test here again tonight.

“They’re like a machine, they just play the same way game after game after game and they’re difficult to play against all three areas,” Todd McLellan said this morning. “So, it’s a really good challenge for our group tonight to play certain way to give ourselves a chance at success and we’ll see if we’re stubborn or if we’re willing to do it.”

Phillip Danault echoed similar messages this morning. He talked about how Carolina has consistently played a certain way, despite personnel turning over here and there over the last few years.

When discussing the team he’s expecting to face tonight, he used the word “pressure” multiple times. Carolina, as noted above, is a stingy opponent defensively and they rarely allow time and space to operate in that way. The Kings will have to be ready and prepared for that tonight, as they will likely have to make decisions and plays quicker than Thursday night to find success.

“They pressure you everywhere, we’re not going to have time against them to make plays,” Danault said. “They’re really aggressive, whether it’s on the kill or at 5-on-5, so they play tight, they have good structure, good team.”

Consistency certainly plays into that, both personnel wise and stylistically. The biggest offseason move the Hurricanes made was the addition of defenseman Brent Burns, who as noted above has a tendency to rack up points against the Kings.

While maybe not the type of player you always associate with Carolina’s style, McLellan believes that he hasn’t changed the team’s identity, but rather improved it.

“I don’t think it changes their identity, I think it enhances their identity,” McLellan said. “They’re a volume shooting team and obviously I know Burnsy well, there’s not a puck that he’s ever seen that he doesn’t want to shoot, and he’s very good at it. Their ability to shoot, go get it back and pull you out of position is as good as anybody’s.”

A good test tonight for the Kings.

34-46-13
In their first game together, the forward line of Gabe Vilardi – Blake Lizotte – Arthur Kaliyev proved to be an effective combination. Their numbers backed that up, for one. Although they did not score, they had seven shots on goal together as a line, as opposed to zero against. They were +6 in scoring chances and +3 in high-danger chances as they broke the puck out effectively and transferred that into offensive possession.

That’s what Blake Lizotte felt, at least.

“Yeah, I think it started in our own end,” he said. “I’m a player that takes pride in the d-zone so I think our offense comes a lot of times from our clean breakouts and I think we did that really well. It showed in the chances for and the chances against.”

Where Kaliyev focused his attention was at the other end of the rink, but perhaps not the area you think.

When you think Arthur Kaliyev, you think shot first. You think of the booming one-timer or the heavy wrist shot. This morning, he was thinking about forechecking and physicality, however. He personally has taken a step when it comes to puck hunting and he saw success in that area from his line as a whole versus Arizona.

“We played great last game, we were physical, we were hunting pucks down and shooting pucks a lot,” he said. “We had a lot of chances to score, we just had to bury them. We just have to keep playing the same way today.”

When the eye test matches the numbers – as Mark Yannetti has taught – you can usually be pretty confident that you have come to the correct observation.

In Todd McLellan’s words, that was what happened on Thursday.

“Really effective,” he said of the line. “I think Arthur has really taken it up a notch the last six, seven games. He was playing well, but he really looks hard and heavy, puck protection, his physicality, it looks like he’s played with so much authority right now and it’s fun to watch him play. Gabe coming back from an injury, short-term albeit, I thought he played well and Lizzo had that energy that he always has. I thought that line, if that’s what the analytics spit out at the end of the night, it matched the eye test.”

Dudas, Where’s My Car
Finally, Insiders, the Kings have recalled forward Aidan Dudas today, in advance of tonight’s game.

It’s a nice opportunity for Dudas, who was mentioned by McLellan by name the other day as a player he checked in with Ontario Head Coach Marco Sturm. Dudas has posted an impressive six goals from 18 games, over a 20-goal pace for the season, for a player who is typically deployed in a bottom-six role in Ontario. He’s steadily grown and improved throughout his time with the AHL club and to get an NHL opportunity, even if perhaps just as a fail/safe in case of an injury, is a great reward for a hard-working player who has worked his way into the fold moreso than you might have expected at the start of the season. Good on him.

Kings and Hurricanes, tonight at 7:30 PM as the Kings conclude a four-game homestand. See you there, Insiders!

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