LA Kings: Three things to watch in Avalanche series 5/7 and 5/8

LA Kings (Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports)
LA Kings (Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports) /

The LA Kings will face the Colorado Avalanche in four of their final five games.

If the LA Kings were a fringe playoff hockey team, having to close out the season with four of the final five games against the Colorado Avalanche would be a tall task. However, Los Angeles will miss the postseason for the fourth time in the last five seasons.

The Avalanche are at the other end of the spectrum. After falling in the Western Conference Finals last season to the Dallas Stars, the preseason Stanley Cup favorites are locked and loaded heading into the postseason.

They also called up 2019 first-round pick Alex Newhook on Wednesday, making his debut in Colorado’s 3-2 loss to the Sharks. With a playoff spot locked down, the Avs are fighting for seeding and potentially home-ice advantage at this point.

The Kings swept both games in Arizona, eliminating the Coyotes in the process, and they can, in some respects, play spoiler for the Avalanche, who are four points behind Vegas for the top seed in the West Division with a game in hand.

Some injury news, it looks like the Avs will be without Samuel Girard this weekend. Ryan Graves returned on May 3 against San Jose.

Here are three things to watch in the back-to-back series on Friday and Saturday night.

1. Quinton Byfield’s last game and last callup

General manager Rob Blake made it abundantly clear that the LA Kings would not burn the first year off Quinton Byfield‘s – or anything other prospects, for that matter – entry-level contract. Byfield is at five games, which means Friday’s game against the Avalanche is presumably his last with the NHL roster before returning to Ontario to help Coach Wroblewski prepare for the modified AHL playoffs.

Assuming normal CHL rules are in play next season, Byfield will not be eligible to play for the Reign. Sending him back to the OHL makes little sense, so he’s likely up with the NHL roster full-time next season. In his five games thus far, he’s averaged 15:10 TOI and recorded his first point on Wednesday. Overall, he’s looked comfortable in a limited sample size.

Of course, the Kings still have one callup remaining, so it will be interesting to see which player the team wants to get a look at over the final four games.

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2. Kings goalies will be under seige

The Avalanche are second in the league, averaging 34.7 shots per game. In the previous four matchups with the LA Kings, the Avs have averaged 34.3 shots per game. In the first two matchups, the Kings held their own, nearly splitting the SOG. However, Colorado has averaged 43.5 shots on net in their last two contests against Los Angeles.

We’ll learn more about the status of Jonathan Quick after the morning skate on Friday, but the Kings could deploy a back-to-back of Cal Petersen and Troy Grosenick. Petersen has been leaky down the home stretch, and Grosenick has made just one start this season.

3. Shoot the puck, Gabe!

Gabe Vilardi is building confidence in these final games. Todd McLellan noted that after Wednesday’s win over Arizona, the team had asked the 21-year-old to shoot the puck more. He’s doing that, and he’s being rewarded for it.

Vilardi has points in three of his last five games, including a two-goal effort on Wednesday.

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Kings vs. Avalanche – Tale of the Tape


Kings: 20.0% (18th)

Avs: 22.9% (8th)


Kings: 84.0% (4th)

Avs: 82.0% (9th)


Kings: 51.0% (11th)

Avs: 51.9% (6th)

Goals Per Game

Kings: 2.67 (21st)

Avs: 3.49 (Tied-1st)

Goals Against Per Game

Kings: 2.94 (19th)

Avs: 2.47 (5th)

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Top Scorer

Kings: Anze Kopitar – 13 goals, 37 assists, 50 points

Avs: Nathan MacKinnon – 20 goals, 45 assists, 65 points

Puck drop is set for 7 pm PT on both nights.