Week Preview: Avalanche, Canucks and Predators
The Kings are back to being inconsistent, but this is a week that is primed for another important winning streak.
Kings @ Avalanche
Tuesday, March 10th
6:00 PM PST
The Avalanche are riding a three-game win streak, going an impressive 7-3-0 in their last ten games. They have crawled back into the playoff picture yet again, just four points back from the Kings, and six points out of the last wild card spot in the West. They’re coming off of an impressive win over the red hot Minnesota Wild, and frankly, they outplayed the Kings at their last meeting a couple of weeks ago, despite losing. With a win, the Avalanche would be a mere two points behind the Kings. While the Kings’ primary focus needs to be on catching the teams ahead of them, distancing themselves from the teams nipping at their heels would leave them one less thing to worry about.
The Avalanche will be without sophomore slumping Nathan McKinnon due to a broken foot. Despite his down season, he is still an elite talent with game-breaking abilities. Goaltender Semyon Varlamov, named second star of the NHL last week, left their last game late in the third period due to an apparent injury. Whether he will be available on Tuesday remains to be seen. As the Kings are currently mired in another mini goal-scoring slump, his absence would be welcome.
Kings @ Canucks
Thursday, March 12th
7:00 PM PST
The Canucks keep quietly plugging along, going 6-3-1 (same as the Kings) in their past ten games, holding strong on their playoff spot. While Kings fans are obsessively wondering why the Calgary Flames continue to defy gravity (honestly, they scored four goals in the third period last night to tie the game and salvage a point), the Canucks are still a very passable team as well. While the Flames seem intent on being this year’s Colorado Avalanche and will probably make the playoffs just to spite logic and fancy stats, beating the Canucks this week would go a long way towards the Kings getting a grip on second place in the Division. Hopefully they can pry it away from the two surprising Canadian teams by season’s end.
It’s honestly bizarre how crazy close it is this year. With two wins this week, the Kings could go from out of the playoffs, to having home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. And this flip-flopping scenario is likely to play out for the remaining 17 games.
Canucks defenseman Chris Tanev is returning this week after a ten-game absence due to injury. Ryan Miller is also out with an injury, but Eddie Lack has had a .943 save percentage or above in his last three games, so Miller’s injury doesn’t seem to be plaguing the team.
Right now, three points separate the Canucks and the Kings. The Canucks play the Ducks tonight, and with a loss, and a Kings win over the Avalanche, this Canucks-Kings game will have direct standings implications. While the Kings would be wise to separate themselves from the teams behind them, they absolutely have to beat the teams directly ahead of them if they have any chance to find themselves in the playoff picture for good.
Predators @ Kings
Saturday, March 14th
7:00 PM PST
The Kings have lost both match-ups against the Predators this season, the first in a shootout, and the second in that wild January game that saw the Kings mount an unrealistic comeback before losing in OT. A regulation victory would essentially even the season series versus the Predators with four points a piece.
Unlike the other two teams this week, the Predators are wholly un-catchable. As they are in the Central division, this matters naught. Once firmly in control of the top seeding in the West, the Predators have lost six games in a row to slip back into second place, still maintaining the slimmest of leads in their divisional race.
While they are a lock to make the playoffs, they will be a desperate team. They play the lowly Arizona Coyotes tonight, so their slide is unlikely to continue. They face the San Jose Sharks on Thursday, so it would greatly benefit the Kings if the Predators could momentarily shake their losing ways. But the Kings will face the Predators in what is likely the lowest moment of their otherwise surprisingly impressive season, and one would hope the Kings desperation to make the playoffs is greater than that of a Nashville team wanting for a little confidence.
This Predator’s losing streak suspiciously coincides with the first handful of games for new marquee acquisitions Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli, traded from Toronto in February. It’s possible they are simply facing some growing pains, but it wouldn’t be the first time that a locker room shake-up of an already successful team could have some unwanted effects.
It’s important for the Kings to win basically all of their games, but this week especially is presenting itself as an ample opportunity for the Kings to jump on struggling teams, or catch important ones. Let’s hope they can take advantage.