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Kings at Golden Knights Preview: Vegas aims to avoid three straight losses, maintain position in division standings

This is a makeup game for the meeting originally scheduled for Dec. 23.

NHL: Vegas Golden Knights at Los Angeles Kings Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Vegas Golden Knights have not scored a goal in 139 minutes and 46 seconds.

That will be the first order of business when they host the Los Angeles Kings tonight at T-Mobile Arena.

The Kings enter tonight’s contest trailing Vegas by just four points in the Pacific Division standings; Los Angeles has a game in hand, which means the two points up for grabs tonight could go a long way towards closing the gap.

Los Angeles isn’t the only team knocking on the door.

Calgary surpassed Vegas in the standings with the team’s sixth straight win the other night, while the Oilers have won four in a row since making a coaching change and now trail Vegas by two points with a game in hand. Anaheim — despite playing three more games than the Knights — is only down by four points.

For many reasons, the Knights can’t afford to continue this slide.

As it is, Vegas has been shut out in consecutive games for the first time in franchise history thanks to 6-0 and 2-0 losses to Calgary and Colorado, respectively. The good news for Vegas is that the team’s effort against Colorado was significantly improved compared to last week’s embarrassment against the Flames.

Notably, Wednesday was Jack Eichel’s debut, though it wasn’t an overly memorable performance. He showed flashes of elite skill but was relatively average, all things considered. That’s reasonable for a player who hadn’t played in 11 months, and it should be expected that the rust will carry over.

He’ll have another challenging matchup tonight, but the pace should be a tad more manageable, to say the least.

Preview — Game #50: Los Angeles Kings at Vegas Golden Knights

The matchup

Tonight will be the third of four meetings between the Golden Knights and Kings this season; the teams split the first two, both of which were held in Los Angeles, with Vegas more recently claiming a 6-3 victory at the end of December. It was the first game back from the extended holiday break (the “rest is a weapon” game).

The Knights got goals from Reilly Smith, Keegan Kolesar, Jonathan Marchessault (2), Chandler Stephenson and Mattias Janmark, while Adrian Kempe, Trevor Moore and Alex Iafallo lit the lamp for Los Angeles. Vegas potted two power-play goals but gave up a shorthanded marker, finishing the game 2-for-4 on the power play and 4-for-4 on the penalty kill.

The Kings wiped the ice with the Knights in the previous meeting, a 6-2 win in Vegas’ second game of the year that ultimately kicked off a four-game losing streak.

Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty led the way with nine combined points. Dustin Brown and Phillip Danault also scored for the Kings, while Shea Theodore and Stephenson each scored to sandwich six straight goals by Los Angeles. Two of those goals came on the power play, as Vegas went 0-for-1 on the man advantage and 0-for-2 on the penalty kill.

Marchessault leads the Knights with 17 points in the all-time series (in which Vegas holds a 12-9-2 record). William Karlsson has eight goals in 23 games, while Max Pacioretty has managed to top a point-per-game pace with 16 points in 15 games.

Kopitar leads all players with 11 goals and 27 points in 23 games, while Iafallo and Doughty have 18 and 16 points, respectively.

By the numbers: 2021-22

As usual, Kopitar leads the Kings in scoring (by a 12-point margin) with 14 goals and 42 points, though Kempe — who served as Los Angeles’ representative at this year’s All-Star Game — leads the club in goals with 19.

Viktor Arvidsson and Danault have fared well in their first season with the Kings and have found a new gear more recently; Arvidsson has 30 points, 16 of which have come in his last 16 games, while Danault has three goals in his last two games and nine (along with 12 points) in his last 16. The two skate on the second line with Trevor Moore, who has 17 points in his last 16 games, giving the Kings multiple offensive threats.

That being said, the Kings are in the bottom half of the league in scoring with an average of 2.83 goals per game this season, though it helps that the typically-stingy team has given up an average of 2.77 goals per game, which is the 11th-best rate in the NHL.

Interestingly, the Kings are averaging 35.6 shots per game, which is not only the team’s highest rate in the last five years but also the third-highest rate of all teams since the Knights joined the league in 2017-18.

But that hasn’t necessarily translated in the standings.

Los Angeles is 9-5-2 in 2022 and has gone 4-4-2 in its last 10 games. Like the Knights, the Kings have been better on the road this season (11-6-5 compared to 13-11-2 at home), which explains why Los Angeles has gone 4-0-2 on the road over the last 10 games.

Eichel — who has four goals and 11 points in seven career games against the Kings — took two penalties in the first 21 minutes of the game against Colorado, which is something he’ll look to clean up.

The Kings don’t pose the same threat on special teams but have more than enough firepower to make Vegas pay for any undisciplined play.

Los Angeles ranks 29th in the league on both the power play (15.8 percent) and penalty kill (74.2 percent), giving the Knights a slight advantage on special teams with the 20th-ranked power play (19.2 percent) and 18th-best penalty kill (79.3 percent).

Even so, special teams did play a critical role in each of the previous two meetings this season, so those numbers only go so far.

Projected lineups

In the crease

Tonight is the first half of a back-to-back for the Kings, so Vegas could be facing either netminder; however, Cal Petersen has particularly strong numbers against the Knights and therefore seems more likely to get the nod.

Petersen is 11-7-1 with a 2.70 goals-against average, .900 save percentage and one shutout this season but is 5-2-0 with a 2.51 goals-against average and .930 save percentage in seven starts against the Knights.

Jonathan Quick, by contrast, has struggled in regular-season matchups against Vegas, going 4-8-1 with a 4.10 goals-against average and .875 save percentage. His numbers this season are relatively comparable to Petersen’s: 12-10-6 with a 2.60 goals-against average, .912 save percentage and two shutouts.

Either way, the Knights can’t focus on who is in the crease but instead just need to create traffic and get pucks to the net.

Laurent Brossoit is expected to patrol the paint tonight for Vegas; he made 24 saves on 27 shots in the Knights’ 6-3 win against the Kings back on Dec. 28 and stopped 14 of 16 shots in a relief appearance in the October matchup.

Brossoit is coming off two impressive outings. He earned his first shutout with Vegas with a 4-0 win against Edmonton last week, and despite not getting a win, he was the Knights’ best player the other night in the team’s 2-0 loss to Colorado.

Brossoit is 9-4-2 with a 2.62 goals-against average, .906 save percentage and one shutout this season.

Injury updates

The Kings will be without defensemen Sean Walker and Alex Edler as well as forward Lias Andersson; Andersson resumed skating but won’t be available tonight, while Edler and Walker are on long-term injured reserve.

Speaking of which, Mark Stone remains on LTIR and will stay there for the foreseeable future, while Alec Martinez’s recovery was recently described as “just not there” by Kelly McCrimmon.

Zach Whitecloud is on the shelf with a broken foot, and Robin Lehner is still dealing with an upper-body injury but is expected to be back in the mix sooner rather than later, according to Pete DeBoer.

DeBoer had no update on Nolan Patrick at yesterday’s optional skate other than that Patrick was at the facility. Patrick played 14 seconds before leaving the game against Colorado after taking this hit from Nathan MacKinnon.

Keegan Kolesar should draw back into the lineup in his stead.

Note: In all likelihood, the Misfit Line will be reunited tonight after the new-look second line of Karlsson, Smith and Janmark failed to generate a single shot attempt but gave up 16 the other night against the Avs.

Vegas lineup

Pacioretty — Eichel — Stephenson
Marchessault — Karlsson — Smith
Mattias Janmark — Nicolas Roy — Evgenii Dadonov
William Carrier — Brett Howden — Kolesar

Nicolas Hague — Alex Pietrangelo
Brayden McNabb — Theodore
Ben Hutton — Dylan Coghlan

Brossoit
Logan Thompson

Los Angeles lineup

Iafallo — Kopitar — Kempe
Moore — Danault — Arvidsson
Andreas Athanasiou — Quinton Byfield — Brown
Brendan Lemieux — Blake Lizotte — Arthur Kaliyev

Mikey Anderson — Doughty
Tobias Bjornfot — Sean Durzi
Olli Maatta — Matt Roy

Petersen
Quick


How to watch

Time: 7 p.m.

TV: AT&T SportsNet

Radio: Fox Sports 98.5 FM