Fitting it’s dollar pretzel night at the Farg as two teams tied in the knot that is the NHL’s mushy middle faceoff.
Flyers vs. Kings
When: 7:00 p.m. ET
Where: Wells Fargo Center
TV: NBCSP, BSW
Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic
The Los Angeles Kings (26-17-6) are in town, losers of three of four and clinging to the Western Conference’s second wild card by a point.
Prior to last season, the Kings declared their rebuild over and attempted to pivot to winning. They made the playoffs last season, taking a superhuman Connor McDavid to seven games before bowing out in the first round. In the offseason, Los Angeles doubled down, adding Kevin Fiala from the Minnesota Wild. While he leads the team with 49 points in their 49 games, the team has not taken a step forward thanks to shaky goaltending and a shaky blueline.
While the Kings hoped to leave mediocrity by taking a step forward, the Flyers (20-21-7) were expected to be looking at lottery odds by this point in the season. With a couple extended hot streaks, the team is merely bad and not the kind of abomination required to compete for the best odds at a top pick.
After winning eight of 10, the Flyers lost two of the last three, most recently falling to the Winnipeg Jets, 5-3, Sunday night. While Philadelphia appeared it could ride this month’s hot streak into a playoff push, the team now sits seven points back of the East’s second wild card.
The Flyers beat the Kings, 4-2, New Year’s Eve on Noah Cates’ game-winning, shorthanded goal with just under seven minutes left. Cates, Scott Laughton, and Owen Tippett each had a goal and an assist. The Kings led, 2-1, after the first on goals from Adrian Kempe and Phillip Danault before the Flyers came back. I hope you had something better to do that night.
Projected Flyers Lineup:
James van Riemsdyk — Morgan Frost — Owen Tippett
Joel Farabee — Noah Cates — Travis Konecny
Kevin Hayes — Scott Laughton — Wade Allison
Nic Deslauriers — Patrick Brown — Zack MacEwen
Ivan Provorov — Cam York
Travis Sanheim — Tony DeAngelo
Nick Seeler — Rasmus Ristolainen
Hart led the Flyers to a 2-1 win in Detroit Saturday, losing his shutout in the final minute. After a tough outing for Felix Sandstrom in Sunday’s loss, Hart is back between the pipes.
Kevin Hayes is riding a hot streak, scoring five goals in his last four games. Morgan Frost has points in three of four.
Projected Kings Lineup:
Quinton Byfield — Anze Kopitar — Adrian Kempe
Alex Iafallo — Phillip Danault — Viktor Arvidsson
Kevin Fiala — Blake Lizotte — Jaret Anderson-Dolan
Rasmus Kupari — Alex Turcotte — Samuel Fagemo
Mikey Anderson — Drew Doughty
Sean Durzi — Matt Roy
Tobias Bjornfot — Sean Walker
Pheonix Copley/Jonathan Quick
The Kings are banged up. Forwards Carl Grunstrom, Arthur Kaliyev, and Trevor Moore are on injured reserve while winger Gabriel Vilardi is also out. Anderson-Dolan took advantage of some additional ice time, scoring both goals in a win in Chicago Sunday.
The Kings have been undermined by goaltending most of the season. After paying a combined $10.8 million to Quick (3.34 goals-against average; .884 save percentage) and Cal Petersen (3.75 GAA, .868 save percentage), Copley has received the bulk of the starts of late. He’s 13-3-0 this year with an .896 save percentage.
What to watch for:
Can the Flyers’ power play build on Sunday?
Both of Hayes’s goals Sunday came on the power play, moving the beleaguered unit up to 27th in the league. The Kings have the 27th-ranked kill, so there is an opportunity to keep rolling.
Same old Kings?
Despite some familiar names like Doughty, Kopitar, and Quick, the Kings are a far cry from the teams that competed for Cups in the early 2010s. That said, they still are one of the better play-driving teams in the league thanks to their defensive work. Per Natural Stat Trick, the Kings are seventh in expected-goals percentage (53.14), mostly buoyed by allowing the seventh-fewest expected goals in the league. Kopitar and Danault are well-established two-way centers and helped limit the Flyers to just 23 shots in their first matchup.