WHO: Los Angeles Kings (0-0) @ Edmonton Oilers (0-0)
WHAT: ROUND 1, GAME 1, PACIFIC DIVISION SEMIFINALS
WHEN: Monday, April 17 @ 7:00 PM Pacific
WHERE: Rogers Place – Edmonton, AB
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: Bally Sports West (Local) / ESPN (National) – AUDIO – iHeart Radio – TWITTER: @DooleyLAK & @LAKings
TONIGHT’S MATCHUP: The playoffs have arrived! The rematch is on, as the Kings visit the Edmonton Oilers for the second straight season in Round 1.
HEAD-TO-HEAD: The Kings and Oilers split the regular-season series, with each team winning two of four games played, one in each building. Forward Viktor Arvidsson led the Kings during the season series with six points (2-4-6) from four games played, while forward Trevor Moore was the team leader with three goals.
KINGS VITALS: The Kings held full-team practices over each of the last two days and, as has been the norm throughout the season, held an optional morning skate in advance of Game 1.
The Kings will start goaltender Joonas Korpisalo this evening, confirmed by Todd McLellan following today’s morning skate. Korpisalo has a lifetime record of 3-5-0 against Edmonton, with a .893 save percentage and a 3.58 goals-against average. Korpisalo has appeared in nine career playoff games, with a .941 save percentage and a 1.90 goals-against average, with tonight likely marking his first game with the Kings.
With the optional skate, no formal line rushes, but the following offers Game 1 potentials –
Byfield – Kopitar – Kempe
Moore – Danault – Arvidsson
Iafallo – Lizotte – Kaliyev
Grundstrom – Kupari – Anderson-Dolan – MacEwen
Anderson – Doughty
Gavrikov – Roy
Edler – Durzi – Walker
Forwards Kevin Fiala and Gabe Vilardi did not take part in the skate with the full group and won’t play tonight. That goes for tonight and tonight only, at this time. Regarding the remainder of the lineup, appears as if there could be a couple of decisions still to be made with regards to final selections. Will have a certain idea come warmups.
OILERS VITALS: No team in the NHL enters the postseason off a hotter stretch of games than Edmonton, which posted a league-best .875 winning percentage after the Trade Deadline.
Edmonton is expected to start goaltender Stuart Skinner this evening for Game 1, in what would be his first career NHL playoff appearance. Skinner has faced the Kings four times throughout his short career, posting a record of 2-1-0, with a .950 save percentage and a 1.78 goals-against average.
Per Daniel Nugent-Bowman of The Athletic, here’s how Edmonton lined up in Game 82 –
Oilers lines and pairings in warmups vs. SJS:
— Daniel Nugent-Bowman (@DNBsports) April 14, 2023
Forward Leon Draisaitl led the Oilers against the Kings this season with a team-high four points (1-3-4) from four games played. Forward Connor McDavid was the only Edmonton skater with multiple goals against the Kings, with two from the four head-to-head matchups. Both players posted their lowest points-per-game against opposition from the Pacific Division against the Kings.
Doughty & Arvidsson Excitement
Todd McLellan spoke on Saturday about the importance of getting both Drew Doughty and Viktor Arvidsson back in the lineup for the postseason. And it is quite important.
Both players were key members of the 2021-22 squad who did not participate in the Round 1 matchup due to injury. Both players are back in the fold here 12 months later and both players are coming off of terrific seasons. Strictly from a production standpoint, both Doughty and Arvidsson posted their highest point totals since the 2017-18 season. In Doughty’s case, that was the final playoff appearance for LA before last spring and Arvidsson was a member of the Nashville Predators at the time.
Both spoke about their excitement levels heading into their first playoff games here in 2023.
Doughty – I’m super excited, trying to keep my emotions in check as much as I can. I don’t want to get over pumped and try to do too much because usually that’ll backfire on you. I’m just so excited to play in the playoffs again and get a chance to hopefully beat Edmonton. They beat us last year so we want to try to get them back. Super excited and just can’t wait.
Arvidsson – I’m excited, I’ve been waiting for this for a long time. We’ve had some COVID years in the playoffs, it wasn’t as fun as a normal playoffs and I missed last year, so it’s going to be fun.
For Arvidsson, it’s been a long-time coming, because of how much work he had to put in coming off of offseason back surgery. He had a slower start to the season than he finished last year with, but he found his stride and nearly reached 60 points, despite missing a few games along the way.
Doughty’s process back was more straight forward, but he’s Drew Doughty and he’s amped. This is his time of the year and these are the challenges he embraces the most.
For both, teammates are excited to have a couple of veterans back and ready to roll.
“It’s great, both of them have a lot of playoff games, Arvy has over 60 games of playoff experience which is great for us, he’s a veteran and obviuosly Dewy has won, he’s done all that,” forward Adrian Kempe said this morning. “It’s great to have those two guys back. Obviously we’re missing a couple of guys still, but I think for the younger guys and for myself, it’s a relief to have two vets back who can take charge in the locker room and on the ice.”
Importance Of Discipline
When you say “Greatest Power Play in NHL History” not much more typically needs to be said.
The Kings are well aware of what they’re facing in Edmonton. The Oilers converted at better than 32 percent this season, with their 32.4 percent mark the best single-season total in NHL history, a full percentage point clear of all but one team in NHL history. With 89 goals from 82 games played, the Oilers averaged more than a power-play goal each time out. That’s 1-0 right off the bat.
With that all in mind, the message is pretty clear – stay out of the penalty box. So clear that Todd McLellan doesn’t believe it needs to be talked about a whole lot because, well, they know.
“I don’t believe we have to talk a lot about it because their power play speaks volumes,” McLellan said. “If we’re planning on a short series, we can march to the penalty box. It doesn’t matter how good our penalty kill is, they score one out of every three. They will get opportunities and they will make you pay, so we’ve got to be smart and we know that.”
Regardless of how much it’s been discussed, the concept of discipline has clearly resonated throughout the entire group. It’s not a novel concept, not taking penalties, but when you face a power play as dangerous as Edmonton’s it goes twice. The Kings are well aware of what their opponent is capable of on the man advantage and independent of messaging, they’re saying the right things as it pertains to staying out of the penalty box.
That’s not to say the Kings will be passive, though. That would be counter-productive. Defenseman Mikey Anderson and forward Trevor Moore spoke about the balance that will be needed when it comes to the need to be physical and aggressive, but also on the right side of the line, playing the game at 5-on-5.
Mikey Anderson – You want to be physical, you want to get in each other’s face as much as you can to make it hard, but the flip side of that is you’ve got to keep emotions in check. You don’t want to be running to the penalty box, all game, all series, so it’s something to make sure that you keep an eye on and focus on within their room and then keep guys accountable for not letting it get there.
Trevor Moore – We have to be physical, we know that. We have to lean on their top guys, all of their guys and their defensemen. I don’t see us finishing hits as a reason why we’re going to take penalties. We’re going to take penalties if we’re behind in games, even if not scoring wise but pace wise, or if we’re doing stupid stuff after the whistle.
That message is coming through via McLellan as well.
He doesn’t want to see his players play passively and he knows they have to engage physically in order to have success. There’s a balance to be achieved between engaging to the point of defending and engaging to where you’re taking needless penalties and putting the NHL’s best power play to work over and over again. The Kings will need to find that balance throughout he course of the series.
“We have to be engaged, there’s no doubt about it, a team isn’t going to win in any of the series without being engaged, but you have to be able to control your emotions,” McLellan added. “Handle every situation properly, with what’s appropriate for the moment and be ready to go and move on from what just happened to the next job, the next task. That’ll be important for us.”
Lastly, Insiders, sharing our series preview podcast from All The Kings Men.
This season’s episode was joined by four guests – Jarret Stoll of LA Kings Player Development & Bally Sports West discussed the forwards, while Daniel Nugent-Bowman, who covers the Oilers for The Athletic discussed the defensemen and the opposition. Kevin Woodley of NHL.com covered the goaltending, while Edward Egros of Bally Sports West gave an analytical perspective. Four different takes to get you prepped for Game 1 and beyond.
Kings and Oilers, Game 1, coming at you tonight at 7 PM Pacific time!