Previewing the Los Angeles Kings' 2011-12 season:
Game 54 @ Tampa Bay
February 7, 2012
4:30pm PST (7:30pm EST)
In sports, if a team or a player struggles, all is forgiven and forgotten if they play well. A win tonight in St. Petersburg would definitely help the Los Angeles Kings as they are trying to forget about their weekend when they opened their road trip with back-to-back losses and scoring just once over that stretch.
Currently sitting ten points out of the final playoff spot in the East, the Tampa Bay Lightning may not be where they want to be but as they fight for their playoff lives, anticipate a great sense of desperation in this the final stretch of the regular season. To have a chance to win, the Kings will have to significantly elevate their game. After all, being just two points up on the 8th-place Minnesota and four points up on Dallas and Phoenix, who are tied for 9th in the West, the Kings should also be playing with their own sense of desperation.
Tonight marks the only meeting of the season between the Kings and Lightning with Los Angeles coming into tonight’s contest with a two-game winning streak over Tampa. The last time these two met was back on November 4, 2010 in Los Angeles when the home team won, 1-0. The Kings also took the Lightning to a shootout and beat them 2-1 in St. Petersburg during the 2009-10 season.
Despite their overall struggle this season, the Lightning are 6-3-1 in their last ten but have the 26th-ranked goal differential this season at -26. Some may look at the latter stat as a positive but keep in mind that Carolina had a -28 goal differential and, well, we all know how Saturday turned out for the Kings in Raleigh.
As far as lineups go, don’t expect any significant changes for the Kings. In fact, the only change anyone is anticipating is in goal as Jonathan Quick will most likely return to the net as he got the rare night off in Carolina on Saturday.
Veterans Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier are each have big years as they have collected 49 and 44 points respectively. Even the former King Teddy Purcell is having a good year as he’s registered 13 goals and 15 assists thus far. Of course, no Lightning analysis is complete without mentioning Steven Stamkos who leads his club in goals with 34 and points with 57. Tonight will be another chapter in the battle of the first two picks of 2008 (for those of you who don’t know, it’s Stamkos vs. Doughty).
A possible upside for the Kings is the shaky goaltending situation in Tampa. Between the aging Dwayne Roloson and former King Mathieu Garon, the Bolts have immensely struggled in said department and, for a team, that has suffered its own hardships in scoring, something has to give tonight and let’s hope for the Kings’ sake that they’re the ones who benefit and snap out of their personal doldrums.
For Los Angeles, tonight will be an ideal time to right the ship and continue their road trip with a new-found optimist. For Tampa, it’ll be a chance to inch closer to a playoff spot. Tonight’s game will result in which side is more desperate and whoever it is anyone’s guess at this point.
Enjoy the game!
Photo: Courtesy of Reinhold Matay/AP Photo