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Los Angeles Kings at Tampa Bay Lightning Preview: With reign comes thunder

Lightning can win back-to-back games for the first time in 2017.

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at Los Angeles Kings Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Kings (27-22-4 58 pts) at Tampa Bay Lightning (23-24-6 52pts) GAME 54

Time: 7:30pm EST

Location: Amalie Arena, Tampa, Florida

Broadcast/Streaming: NBCSN

Opponent SB Nation Site: Jewels From the Crown

Previous Game Musings

The Ducks/Lightning was the first game in roughly two weeks that I watched start to finish, and it was honestly one of the best games the Lightning have played all year. Yet, they almost lost. They dominated Anaheim throughout the game and if it wasn’t for two mistakes that Anaheim capitalized on, Bishop would’ve had a shutout. The game was nerve-wracking, and once Anaheim tied it at two there was a sense of “oh here we go again,” but the Bolts kept pushing and attacking. It was nice to see the team fight consistently throughout the whole game. It shows that they can still compete, they can still beat good teams. But it might be too late.

Preview

The Los Angeles Kings are in town tonight as they continue their sojourn through the eastern United States. Not a lot has changed since the last time these two teams met; LA still cannot score often, with 132 goals (23rd), but also don’t allow many either with only 128 (5th) being put in their net. They’re still a possession monster with a Corsi For % of 54.66% (2nd), though their inability to score has hindered them over their last 10 games. They’ve gone 5-5-0 while scoring 25 goals and allowing 17; this may sound rather good, but the Kings have wildly fluctuated during their recent games. In their five wins the Kings have scored 15 goals while only allowing 3, but in their five losses they’ve scored 12 goals and allowed 17. That’s a wild swing for a team that is known for locking it down.

Their most recent game was against the Washington Capitals, who beat the brakes off them 5-0. This Kings team is prideful, so expect them to play a bit angry tonight against the Lightning. The last time these two teams played, the Lightning came out on top 2-1 in a game where the Kings didn’t have Anze Kopitar in the lineup. Kopitar is back and his presence will have impact, so don’t expect a walk in the park.

As for Tampa, the offense still continues to score goals with 144 (14th), but have not consistently stopped opposing teams from filling their net with 157 (24th) allowed. The power-play has still been a bright spot, clicking at 21.6% (8th). If it wasn’t for Jonathan Bernier standing on his head for Anaheim, the Bolts would’ve buried the Ducks much earlier with all the power-play chances they received. While LA has a strong penalty kill (83.7%, good for 8th best), giving the Lightning numerous opportunities would not be a wise course of action.

The Lightning penalty kill did a great job shutting down Anaheim’s power play Saturday night, not allowing a goal on five opportunities. Overall the PK hasn’t improved too much, currently sitting at 80% (21st), but hopefully, the Anaheim game will provide a springboard for it to help stabilize the defense a bit. Going up against a power-play that ranks in the bottom 10 (the Kings power-play is currently at 17% which is 23rd in the league) could give a big boost to the Bolts PK.

Possession wise, the Lightning are still a top-10 team, posting a Corsi For % of 51.17 (8th), so just because LA can possess the puck well doesn’t mean the Lightning will be walked on. The Kings under Darryl Sutter have been a rough team to play against; they’re a grinding team that likes to play the body and moves you out of the way, but they’re not exactly a “fast” team. Tampa Bay has shown that they can beat the more physical teams in the league by out skating them and forcing the opposing defense into bad positions. This style of play has to continue if the Bolts want to have any kind of shot at a playoff berth (the Lightning at the time of this writing are dead last in the Eastern Conference).

Los Angeles will be hungry to erase the shellacking Washington handed them. If Tampa Bay comes out flat in the first period it will spell disaster; the Kings are not a team you want to give a lead too, they will suffocate your offense throughout the rest of the game and smile as you squirm to try and make something happen. Tampa has defeated the Kings once already and they can do it again to earn back-to-back wins for the first time in 2017; they last won back-to-back games in December by defeating Detroit (Dec. 20th) and St. Louis (Dec. 22nd).

Comparison Chart

Tampa Bay Lightning

Forwards

Vladislav Namestnikov - Tyler Johnson - Nikita Kucherov

Alex Killorn - Brayden Point - Jonathan Drouin

Brian Boyle - Valtteri Filppula - Joel Vermin

Gabriel Dumont - Cedric Paquette - J.T. Brown

Defensemen

Victor Hedman - Jake Dotchin

Braydon Coburn - Anton Stralman

Jason Garrison - Andrej Sustr

Goaltenders

Ben Bishop

Andrei Vasilevskiy

LA Kings

Forwards

Marian Gaborik - Anze Kopitar - Dustin Brown

Tanner Pearson - Jeff Carter - Tyler Toffoli

Dwight King - Nick Shore - Trevor Lewis

Kyle Clifford - Nic Dowd - Devin Setoguchi

Defensemen

Jake Muzzin - Drew Doughty

Derek Fortbort - Alec Martinez

Brayden McNabb - Kevin Gravel

Goaltenders

Peter Budaj

Jeff Zatkoff