The Kings end a long rest (they haven’t played since Friday) with a home game against the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday night. The ‘Canes are in much the opposite situation having played last night against the San Jose Sharks, a game they won 5-2. The Hurricanes have yet to play a home game (in Carolina that is) this season as they were one of the teams that started their season in Europe. The Hurricanes won both tilts against Minnesota in Helsinki, Finland. You know what they say, What happens in Helsinki…
What Carolina brings to the table:
-Youth. This will actually be the matchup between the two youngest teams in the league. I believe the Kings are technically the youngest, with guys like Schenn, Muzzin, and Loktionov acting as curve breakers. The ‘Canes have some supreme young talent too in Jeff Skinner, their 1st round pick from this summer, Zac Dalpe, Drayson Bowman, and Jamie McBain.
-Much like Schenn, Skinner seems like one of those guys who always gets his chances and hasn’t found the net, but once the flood gates open the goals will come. Schenn won’t be in the lineup, but will Wednesday be Skinner’s night?
-Cam Ward. It looks like Ward is back in top form, dominating at times this season. Look no further than his 41 save performance from last night. His .923 save percentage is 2nd to only Craig Anderson when it comes to keepers with 5 games under their belts. Update 12:45 pm: All of the stuff on Ward is true, except it will be Justin “Pete Dawg” Peters in net for the ‘Canes tonight. Peters earned the backup job with an impressive call-up last season while Ward was down due to injury. He sported a 6-3-0 record for a ‘Canes team that was struggling at the time.
-Active D. Joni Pitkanen, Joe Corvo, Jamie McBain, and Anton Babchuk are all guys who love to join the rush. Will that play to the Hurricanes advantage or will the Kings be able to exploit a bad pinch?
-Eric Staal. Staal had a good game last night with a goal and an assist, but Staal is one of those guys who will be quiet for a game or two, then erupt with a 5 point night. Is that tonight?
What the Kings need tonight:
-Shake off the rust. The Kings can’t waste time getting back into the flow after a 4 day game-break. The Hurricanes leapt to a 3-0 lead last night and San Jose couldn’t recover. If the Kings have a slow start the same thing could happen again.
-Bernier is the heir apparent to the Kings crease, but Quick has upped his game significantly. If Bernier wants to keep his name in the conversation then he needs a strong performance every chance he gets. Tonight he’ll get his chance.
-Face-off wins. The Kings are up against a team that is every bit as awful as they are on the dot tonight. Depending on how the match ups work themselves out it could be two of the best centers with the worst face-off skills, well, facing off!
-Continued defensive effort. Los Angeles has allowed just 6 goals in 4 games this season. You can thank the Kings rapidly maturing defensive youth as well as key addition Willie Mitchell. And don’t forget Jake Muzzin who has fit in very nicely. Team defense has been good as well with strong back checking efforts from the offense.
-It’s safe to assume the Kings will pit Ponikarovsky-Handzus-Simmonds against the Staal line. Staal has had a revolving door of wingers this season and it’s possible the Kings big 3rd line has an opportunity to break out the scoring tonight.
-Anze Kopitar. I’ve already drawn a comparison between Kopitar and Staal’s face-off accumen (or lack thereof), now I’ll draw another. Kopitar is also a player that can be quiet for a game or two then explode for a big night. Will tonight be the night?
-Loktionov to lock it in. Loktionov has shown chemistry with Kopitar and Brown on the first line, but he’ll need that chemistry to show up on the score sheet if he wants to keep the job. Loktionov has seen some good chances, but finishing could lock him into a job past 10 games.
-Secondary scoring. Basically all of the Kings scoring has come from Smyth-Stoll-Williams so far. They’re proving to be a great insurance policy until Kopitar’s line gels.
-Patrick O’Sullivan returns to L.A. as one of the ‘Canes newest members. He has looked like the Patrick of old so far for the ‘Canes, which means he’s a dangerous player. Ironically Patrick was briefly a member of the ‘Canes before being shipped to Edmonton two seasons ago in a three-way trade the Kings were a part of. In fact all three properties of that trade will be on ice tonight, Erik Cole and Patrick O’Sullivan of the ‘Canes and Justin Williams of the Kings.
-Don’t forget the other set of ‘Canes-Kings swaps, Jack Johnson and Tim Gleason. Since then, Gleason has become a staple of the ‘Canes blueline and a fan favorite. Jack Johnson started to show his true potential after the Olympics last season and is expected to have a career year.
-Tom Kostopoulos and Joe Corvo also spent time in Los Angeles.
-The Hurricanes are 1-0 this season on the 2nd game of back-to-backs.
Puck drops at 7pm PT.
For always excellent coverage of the ‘Canes, check out ‘Canes Country. Great blog, great fans.
About the Author
Written by Eric Cooney
Eric Cooney was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina, and lives in Los Angeles, CA. He shares his thoughts on the NHL as one man who is a northerner, southerner, east coaster, and west coaster. Follow him on Twitter @EricCooney