Game 31 Preview: Kings Come to Nationwide

Los Angeles Kings at Columbus Blue Jackets

December 15, 2011 - 7:00pm EST
Nationwide Arena - Columbus, Ohio
Radio: 97.1 WBNS-FM - TV: Fox Sports Ohio
Opponents Blog: Jewels From The Crown
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Tonight marks the first of four meetings this season between the Jackets and the Kings. Last season, the Kings took three of four from Columbus. But what a difference a year makes. The big news coming into tonight's game is the coaching change that took place on Monday when Terry Murray was relieved of his duties, in favor of former Philadelphia Flyers bench boss, John Stevens. Stevens had been one of Murray's assistants, and the Kings made it very clear by adding "interim" to Stevens' title.

Steve Mason returned to the Columbus cage after a 12 game absence and was terrific on Tuesday night against the Vancouver Canucks. The newly focused Mase made 30 saves en route to earning the game's First Star award. Regardless of what factors contributed to his success on Tuesday, he'll need to rely on more of the same tonight. The overall statistical breakdown from Tuesday suggests a very evenly matched game. One component where the Jackets really made a difference was in shot blocking. Their 19 blocked shots kept some pucks from getting through to Mase; also when you're up around 20 blocks a game, you know the boys are bringing it.

Projected Lineups

Columbus Blue Jackets

(9-17-4, 22 Points; 5th division, 15th conference)
Vinny Prospal Jeff Carter Rick Nash
R.J. Umberger
Derick Brassard Ryan Johansen
Antoine Vermette Samuel Pahlsson
Mark Letestu
Dane Byers
Derek MacKenzie
Jared Boll
Fedor Tyutin Nikita Nikitin
Marc Methot James Wisniewski
Grant Clitsome John Moore
Steve Mason
Curtis Sanford

Los Angeles Kings
(13-13-4, 30 Points; 4th Division, 12th Conference)

Simon Gagne
Anze Kopitar
Justin Williams
Kyle Clifford
Jarret Stoll
Dustin Brown
Dustin Penner
Andrei Loktionov
Trent Hunter
Brad Richardson
Colin Fraser
Kevin Westgarth
Rob Scuderi Drew Doughty
Slava Voynov Jack Johnson
Davis Drewiske Matt Greene
Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Bernier

Season Series:

12/15/11 Los Angeles at Columbus

1/7/12 Columbus at Los Angeles

2/1/12 Columbus at Los Angeles

3/8/12 Los Angeles at Columbus

By The Numbers:

LAK- 2.13 G/G (30TH)
CBJ - 2.33 G/G (28th)

LAK- 2.27 GA/G (6th)
CBJ - 3.23 GA/G (26th)

Power Play
LAK- 16.1% (21st)
CBJ - 13.1% (26th)

Penalty Kill
LAK- 86.2% (8th)
CBJ - 74.8% (28th)

Game Notes:

  • Captain Rick Nash likes playing the Kings, by the numbers anyway. Last season, Nasher lit the Kings up to the tune of five goals and three assists in the four games against LA. Currently, Nash has gone 2-2-4 over his last six games.
  • James Wisniewski continues to improve all around for the Jackets. Wiz had three big hits on Tuesday in addition to the deciding shootout goal. The Kings are definitely not the 'Nucks up and down, so look for Wiz to be quite active at both ends of the ice tonight.
  • Jonathan Quick continues to shine in what has been a tough first half of the season for the Kings. Quick is currently ranked 10th in the NHL, based on his 2.14 GAA and his .929 save percentage.
  • Derek Dorsett of the Jackets and Willie Mitchell of the Kings are both listed as day-to-day.
  • Based on his time behind the Flyers bench, the Kings are expecting a more physical brand of play with Stevens at the helm. There still remains a huge long-term unknown, as the LA scribes are all infatuated with Brent Sutter becoming the ultimate winner of the Kings coaching derby. Stevens is a low key guy, and I can't say that after just a few days he will have an active hand in changing a lot, if anything from the Murray regime.

Both teams played Tuesday night. The Jackets turned in a dandy effort against the Canucks, while the Kings showed more of the same against the Boston Bruins. The B's whitewashed the Kings 3-0 in a game of total domination by the Bruins. The Kings, going through their changes, probably couldn't be away from LA LA land at a worse time. Look for the Jackets to come out with the same high energy they showed against Vancouver. With a constant pressure on Quick in the Kings goal, this could be a big night for the Jackets.

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