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Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Los Angeles Kings preview: The Kings are better than you think

This game will not be a pushover.

Los Angeles Kings v Tampa Bay Lightning Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Los Angeles Kings: Game 46

Time: 7:00 pm Eastern Time

Location: Amalie Arena

Broadcast/Streaming: SunS, FSW

Opponent SBNation Site: Jewels from the Crown

Preview:

The Lightning return to action tonight at home against the Los Angeles Kings starting another flurry of three games in four days before the All-Star Break. This makes five games in seven days counting last weekend’s back to back. This stretch will for the most part, eliminate the games in hand they’ve held over their competition through much of the early part of the season.

They’ve made the most of those games climbing from the bottom from the bottom half of the division to second place with a four point lead over the Toronto Maple Leafs. They’re still eight points behind the Bruins but have a chance to close that gap slightly with one extra game in the next few days.

Coming into this season, most analysts expected the Kings to be bottom feeders. They have a startling lack of recognizable names on their roster and a first line that features Alex Iafallo and Tyler Toffoli doesn’t generate much excitement. But they’ve been much better than they have any business being.

They currently sit 8th in 5v5 expected goal share. Usually, a team playing that well will at least be in playoff contention. But the Kings are nowhere near that because they’ve been one of the most unfortunate teams in the NHL in terms of percentages. They currently sit second to last in shooting percentage and 22nd in save percentage.

Not all of that is bad luck. Looking at their roster gives some insight as to why their shooting percentage is so low. They don’t have much finishing talent in their forward group. And in net, we all know by now of Jonathan Quick’s struggles. He’s far removed for his run as one of the better goaltenders in the NHL.

But don’t let those poor results fool you. The Kings are one of the best teams in the league in terms of controlling play and they will give the Lightning a hard time if they treat LA like a typical 40 point team. Generating chances will be difficult and when they get them, they need to capitalize.

The Lightning forward group that looks to capitalize on those chances is still in flux. Alex Volkov remains with the team due to an injury to Pat Maroon. Maroon is listed as day to day and wasn’t in the regular line rushes at practice so it looks like he’ll be out again tonight.

On the back end, Ryan McDonagh is also officially day to day and skated on a pair with Luke Schenn during practice so it appears he won’t be back yet either.

With the All-Star break just a few days away, it wouldn’t be surprising for the team to be extra careful with any of the injured players and give them from now until the 27th when the Lightning play their first game after the break to heal.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Forward Lines

Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov

Steven Stamkos - Anthony Cirelli - Tyler Johnson

Alex Killorn - Cedric Paquette - Yanni Gourde

Carter Verhaeghe - Mitchell Stephens - Alex Volkov

Pat Maroon (injured)

Defense Pairings

Victor Hedman - Jan Rutta

Mikhail Sergachev - Kevin Shattenkirk

Braydon Coburn - Erik Cernak

Luke Schenn (scratched), Ryan Mcdonagh (injured)

Goaltenders

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Curtis McElhinney

Los Angeles Kings

Forward Lines

Alex Iafallo - Anze Kopitar - Tyler Toffoli

Kyle Clifford - Jeff Carter - Dustin Brown

Adrian Kempe - Michael Amadio - Austin Wagner

Nikolai Prokhorkin - Jaret Anderson-Dolan- Trevor Lewis

Defense Pairings

Alec Martinez - Drew Doughty

Derek Forbort - Sean Walker

Ben Hutton - Matt Roy

Goalies

Jonathan Quick

Jack Campbell