NHL Preview: Los Angeles Kings vs. Edmonton Oilers
The Edmonton Oilers will be welcoming the Los Angeles Kings to Rexall Place for Game three of their five-game homestand Tuesday night in a battle of teams who are struggling to get going. There have been flashes of brilliance from both sides, but both teams have, frankly, been disappointing thus far.
Despite the extra-long offseason, the Stanley Cup hangover appears to have gotten a hold of the Kings, as they have stumbled off to a 5-6-3 start that finds them 13th in the West, two points out of last place. The Oilers are 6-5-3 after the team’s shocking comeback win against the Colorado Avalanche Saturday night, and will be looking to improve on their 11th place position.
The two-headed monster of Devan Dubnyk and Nikolai Khabibulin will have the Oilers covered as best they can in net no matter who starts, but it will be interesting to see if Khabibulin gets the nod after Dubnyk got pulled early Saturday while Khabibulin was solid the rest of the way.
Jonathan Bernier and Jonathan Quick have both been exceptionally average in net thus far, with neither goaltender taking advantage of the other’s uninspired play. Similarly, their offense has been in a season-long funk. Mike Richards and Anze Kopitar lead the team with nine points each, but outside of their four goals apiece and Jeff Carter‘s team-leading six, there hasn’t been much of an offensive spark for the Kings.
Despite floundering in recent weeks, the Oilers still have the seventh-best power play in the league (23.9%) as well as the fifth-best penalty kill (86.9%), while the Kings have the twenty-second-best power play (15.0%) and the seventeenth-best penalty kill (81.0%). Special teams could be a huge factor here, especially if the Oilers’ 2-for-4 performance against Colorado Saturday night is a sign that they are coming out of their recent funk. Keep an eye on this aspect of the game.
The Oilers lead the season series 1-0 after defeating the Kings at home in a 2-1 overtime thriller that saw Nail Yakupov tie the game with less then five seconds left in regulation, before racing across the ice and sliding across it in a soccer-style celebration that has easily proven to be this season’s best goal celebration so far. The Kings weren’t happy about this, especially after Sam Gagner tallied the winner in overtime, so they will definitely have revenge on their minds Tuesday night.
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