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12/22 Preview – Optional Skate Today + Line 2 (00ft), McLellan on PP, Moore Joins ATKM

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Who is the: Los Angeles Kings (18-12-5) vs. Calgary Flames (15-12-6)
what: NHL REGULAR SEASON GAME
when: Thursday December 22nd @ 7:30pm Pacific
where: Crypto.com Arena – Los Angeles, California
How to proceed: Video: Bali Sports West – My voice – I heart radio – Twitter: @tweet & @tweet

Tonight’s match: The Kings are looking to cap off their three-game home run with a third straight home win as they host the Calgary Flames for the first time this season.

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face to face: Forward Arthur Kaliev led by two goals when those two teams met in Calgary in November, while forward Kevin Fiala (1-1-2) and defender Drew Doughty (0-2-2) both played out a multi-point game. Doughty has seven points (2-5-7) over his last six games against Calgary. Defenseman Alex Edler has more career points against the Flames (7-35-42) than any other opponent.

Kings Vitals: After a full team practice yesterday, the Kings hit the ice in an optional morning skating game today in El Segundo.

Phoenix goaltender Copley will start tonight against the Flames, Todd McClellan confirmed, his fifth consecutive nod between the pipes. Copley faced the Flames only once in his entire NHL career, making 27 saves on 30 shots to earn his first NHL win on October 27, 2018.

Considering skating optional, there was no chance of seeing a line rush today. Based on what we saw, as well as what yesterday’s practice had to offer, here’s a projection of this evening’s alignment –

Fiala – Kopitar – Kempe
Buffalo – Danault – Moore
Arvidsson – Lezot – Kaliev
Anderson Dolan-Cupari-Vilardi
Ground current – Lemieux

Anderson – Dotty
Dorzy Roy
Noble Walker
Spence

Copley
Quickly

Todd McClellan has indicated that the Kings may have one change on the backfield tonight. Defenseman Jordan Spence was up late in the morning after skiing, which means he might be out for Sean Walker, though he hasn’t been seen yet. Up front, Karl Grundstrom will be available, as will striker Brendan Lemieux, who will also be an option tonight as he was activated from injured reserve earlier today. Lemieux was up late after skiing in the morning today, which suggests his comeback may not come today, but we’ll see during the warm-ups.

Flames Vitals: Calgary is currently on third out of four stops on the trip to California, with two legs in San Jose behind them and a final stop in Anaheim to follow tomorrow night. The Flames are 2-0-0 on the trip so far, with two wins over the Sharks, and have points from five of their last six games total (2-1-3).

Goaltender Dan Vladar was The Flames’ first-choice goalkeeper this morning, making him the expected starter for the visitors. Vladar has yet to face the Kings in 39 NHL games to date. On the season, Vladar posted a 5-4-2 record from 11 games played, with a 0.905 save percentage and a 2.81 goals against average.

According to Brendan Parker of Flames TV, here’s how Calgary sided last time out in San Jose –

The Flames are expected to field three forwards tonight – Trevor Lewis, Milan Lucic and Tyler Tofoli – who are former Kings players. Calgary scored two goals in the first 30 seconds of their last game, tying for the fifth-fastest two goals in NHL history. Forward Elias Lindholm ranks seventh in the NHL in scoring this month with 15 points (5-10-15) from 10 games played.

Notes –
Line 2 (importance of foot 00)
The Kings realized they needed a little more from their second line, a 200-foot perspective, lately.

Nothing to hide, either. They really handled it with great leadership.

“Phil and I haven’t played against each other lately,” Trevor Moore said candidly on his latest road trip.

When you hear Rob Blake praise the leadership traits that Moore brings, part of that comes from his ability to be critical of himself and his game, understanding the importance of that and his line to the team, and that stands out. Neither Philippe Danault nor Victor Arvidsson were people to shy away, either, when needed, though when Arvidsson missed the last two games of the last trip, the Kings were forced to change lineups.

Over the last three games this streak has only conceded one goal, which came against San Jose, but overall it’s been more or less like them. The personnel make-up was a bit different, with Alex Ivalo skating alongside Moore and Danault, while the regular right winger in this line, Arvidsson, topped a trio with Blake Lizotte and Arthur Kaliev.

When Arvidsson left the team to take care of his wife, who is expecting the couple’s second child, the Kings were forced to make a change with this line. With the team headed home and Arvidsson available again, the Kings opted to keep Yavalo with that group and try to find a new guise on a separate line with Arvidsson, who scored a very impressive goal against Anaheim on Tuesday.

McClellan was quick to praise Arvidsson at that spot, and the defensive issues were team-wide, not specific to that line or one player. McClellan feels it might give the Buffalo that line a bit of a “conscience defensive” that might bring them closer to their identity.

“I think Arvy is great out there and I have no problems getting him back there, I think Iafallo gives him a little bit more of a defensive conscience,” McClellan said. “When you’re at home and you can kind of get along a little better, that’s something we’ve been looking for from that line. We challenged a couple of them on a road trip—Arvy wasn’t around at the time, so you can see who the couple is—around checking.” .

McClellan understands how important Danault’s streak is to the team, no matter the winger. We saw it at the start of last season when it was Buffalo and Kimbe and we saw it when wingers became Arvidsson and Moore. The importance is the same with Yavalo on this line as well. The Kings need an elite two-way game from this line to help shut down the opposition’s best players while also contributing to offense. That streak scored in the last game and they’ve been more consistent than these last three wins.

He added, “This is Phil, that’s how he got here, that’s how Morrissey got.” “Crime is a by-product of all that and they have to remember that. Al helps them do that.”

Speaking with Iafallo, he believes the three players share the same mindset when playing together and that’s simple – go get your puck, but do it responsibly.

Iafallo is a goblin hunter and the same descriptor can be used when referring to Danault or Moore as well. Also used to describe Arvidsson, which is why Iafallo can be a perfect fit when it comes to foreclosure checking. As McClellan pointed out, the line should be responsible defensively as did Yavalo. When discusing, it is also important to have a high man ready to go the other way.

“We’re just trying to get the hack and take it back, take it up or go to the net,” he said. “I feel like at the same time we have good communication where he’s keeping a guy high or waiting for the puck or ready to play defensively, so we have to keep communicating that way.”

Power-Play process
Look, we all loved that stretch where the Kings scored every time they took the ice and tapped out about a 50 percent man advantage.

It would certainly have been great if the 2022-23 Los Angeles Kings had surpassed the AHL record-setting percentage of the 2021-22 Ontario Reign, but it just wasn’t meant to be. The Kings have been great in this stretch and the power play has been carrying them up the points in the standings. It’s been cooler lately, but so far, the Kings have scored a solid goal in eight straight games here at home and have buried one in each of their last three games, all wins.

It’s not quite the blazing hot percentage from earlier in the season, but it’s still building momentum and still swaying wins.

“We’d been getting really hot for a while and that rate wasn’t sustainable, you get a little hot and cold, but that rate we were running wasn’t going to be sustainable or it could have been an NHL record,” McClellan said. “Since that sprint, we’ve played We did well in those situations and created momentum for our group. They’re not always going to be Picassos, but I thought last night especially, against Anaheim, once we started playing power, we got more momentum from it and picked up some steam. You have provided us with what we need.”

He spoke with defenseman Shaun Dorsey the other day, and he talked about how generating momentum from special teams can be just as important as scoring in this situation. Whether it’s a strong PP that keeps the team moving forward, or a great kill that lifts the bench and energizes, momentum is an essential aspect for special teams and is an important part of the game.

So are the goals of power play. Overall this season, the Kings have averaged 23 percent this season on power play, vastly outperforming last season’s total. 23 percent is good for 15th in the NHL, so about the league average. How many times last season did we wonder out loud that if the Kings could have a mid-strength performance in the league, how many points would they have, or would they have made the first round of the playoffs? I remember saying it and reading it a lot…….now, they are out there.

Whether it’s in the Kings, or around the NHL, teams play and attack differently on the man advantage and it shows in the results.

“I think there’s some evolution in the power play right now, particularly in the area, and teams are attacking in different ways than they did 10 years ago, or even five years ago,” McClellan said. “The league has taken advantage of that, it’s kind of a copycat league, if it works let’s try it, so I think that happens. Shots come from different positions, and goalkeepers aren’t used to reacting to it. Not necessarily from where, but how the puck gets to those The spot might be a little different.

ATKMoore
Finally, Insiders, a fun interview with Kings striker Trevor Moore on the All The Kings Men podcast, which was posted earlier this morning.

Moore recently signed a five-year contract with the organization and touched on his desire to be part of this team, along with many other fun topics, in the 20-minute interview. Listen to the full hit below –

The Kings and the Flames, tonight at 7:30 PM PST in a big, divisive showdown. see you there!

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