LA Kings must limit damage from Avalanche’s reunited top line

LA Kings (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
LA Kings (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /

After having two days off from games, the LA Kings return to play on Tuesday night, hosting the Stanley Cup-favorite Colorado Avalanche. Jared Bednar’s club lost to the eventual Western Conference champion Dallas Stars in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season. More seasoned, they are ready to make a run at their third title in franchise history.

The LA Kings are coming off a disappointing two-game series against the Wild, both ending the same way. Head coach Todd McLellan spoke with the media after Monday’s morning skate, touching on how the team can reduce the number of penalties in practice.

“We can extend drills, longer and longer, get them tired and monitor their sticks and legs,” McLellan explained. “It is a tough thing to practice, but we’re addressing it, and we’re gonna get better in that area.”

One thing is for certain. The Kings cannot give the Avalanche five or six power play chances, given they converted 5-of-7 on Friday night. Colorado has a loaded roster, and head coach Jared Bednar attempted to spread out the top-end talent among the first two lines. It backfired on him, as the Avalanche lost 4-1 in the 2021 opener, and the second line of Brandon Saad, Gabriel Landeskog, and Nazem Kadri combined for a -10 rating.

Bednar reunited the Avalanche’s top line of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Landeskog for Game Two, and the team blanked the Blues 8-0. The trio accounted for half of the team’s goal count.

“I’m certainly going to stick with them on the top line here for a few games,” Bednar said after Sunday’s practice. “Sometimes, I think we’re better with them apart, and sometimes we’re better with them together.”

Three things to watch in LA Kings matchup with the Avalanche

1. LA Kings penalty kill versus Colorado’s power play

After committing six penalties in the season opener, the LA Kings continued the parade to the penalty box — five more, to be exact. Todd McLellan’s defense killed off all 11 penalties, but the Minnesota Wild are not the Colorado Avalanche. In addition to the team’s top line, the Avalanche have firepower from the blueline in reigning Calder Trophy winner Cale Makar and Devon Toews.

“Obviously, we don’t want to take that many penalties against Colorado,” Kurtis MacDermid said after Monday’s practice. “It’ll be a good challenge for us, and we’re looking forward to shutting them down.”

Screenshot 2021-01-18 at 8.18.45 PM
Screenshot 2021-01-18 at 8.18.45 PM /

The Kings will have their hands full with the Avalanche getting good shots from the slot and both dots.

2. LA Kings fourth line production

According to advanced metrics, the LA Kings fourth line of Trevor Moore, Michael Amadio, and Matt Luff has a 55.6 expected-goals-for percentage yet have nothing to show for it. Luff did not skate Monday morning, and [Todd] McLellan indicated he sustained an injury in Saturday’s contest and will be out on Tuesday night. At first glance, Carl Grundstrom makes the most sense to plug in.

If the Kings can limit the penalties, the fourth line can get real playing time. Grundstrom came over as part of the Jake Muzzin deal in 2019 and had an impressive showing with Los Angeles, scoring five goals and six points in 15 games. Last year didn’t go quite as well, as Grundstrom tallied just four assists in 13 games.

3. Who will be in net for the LA Kings?

If he hadn’t just returned from the “unfit to play” list, Cal Petersen could have started on Saturday. Both general manager Rob Blake and head coach Todd McLellan confirmed that Petersen and Jonathan Quick would split time between the pipes this year. Will Petersen get the start on Tuesday night?

In his only start against the Avalanche in 18-19, Petersen allowed six goals. Quick made three starts last year, allowing just three goals combined and a .965 SV%.

Game Information

Time: 7:00 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