LA Kings versus Wild: Three things to watch on Saturday night

LA Kings (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
LA Kings (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

Game One of the LA Kings 2021 season is officially in the books — and put out of mind, for that matter. Los Angeles hosts the Wild on Saturday night before welcoming in the Colorado Avalanche for a two-game set.

Here are three things to watch throughout Game Two of the regular season.

1. The return of the LA Kings third pairing

With Sean Walker and Kurtis MacDermid out for the season opener, the Kings inserted a combined 22 games of NHL experience in Kale Clague and Mark Alt. Clague had difficulty creating offensive zone entries, recalling one specific sequence in overtime — in three-on-three play no less — where the 22-year-old attempted to bring the puck into the Wild’s zone and kept circling the neutral zone before dumping it down to the end boards.

The LA Kings hoped to have their third pairing back on Friday, and head coach Todd McLellan spoke more about that after the morning skate.

“The three players that are out, they’re still status quo,” the LA Kings head coach explained. “We’re hoping that they’ll be able to clear later today or tomorrow [Saturday] morning. But as of right now, they’re not.”

While nothing has been made official, Mark Alt was placed on waivers yesterday, setting up an AHL return. We’ll know more once the team skates on Saturday, and it’ll be interesting to see if both MacDermid and Walker are on the ice. The Kings missed their experience on the back end.

2. Will there be a shakeup in the bottom-six forwards?

With Martin Frk out of the lineup on Thursday with a lower-body injury, Austin Wagner was promoted to the team’s third line. That left a fourth line consisting of Trevor Moore – Michael Amadio – Matt Luff. The three combined for four shots on net and a -1 rating. It’ll be interesting to see if Carl Grundstrom replaces either Trevor Moore or Matt Luff on Saturday night in an attempt to create more offensive chances.

Of course, there are options on the taxi squad in Lias Andersson and Jaret Anderson-Dolan. Will either of them get an opportunity to showcase themself? Something to monitor.

3. Expecting a cleaner version of the LA Kings

Penalties and sloppy play were the themes in Thursday’s opener. Ten months in between regular-season games and no exhibition games to shake off the rust played a role in why the LA Kings were not as sharp as [Todd] McLellan envisions for his team.

“Officials are getting back to identifying to the players what the standards are and how they’re going to be called, what’s acceptable and unacceptable,” said McLellan. “And we push the limits, and you cross the line, you’re going to get called, and we haven’t played in those situations since you know, March and the hockey memory’s a good one, but it’s also going out and repeating it and doing it over and over again.”

It’s difficult to control the puck and push the pace of play offensively when you’re consistently on the penalty kill. With the mistakes observed in the first game, expect a much more crisp version of the LA Kings on Saturday night.

Game Information:

Time: 6:00 PT

Venue: Staples Center

TV: FOX Sports West or FOX Sports GO (NHL.TV outside of LA area)

Radio: Kings Audio Network on iHeart Radio