Los Angeles Kings (26-33-12 SU, 28-43 PL, 31-38-2 O/U) vs. Colorado Avalanche (42-22-7 SU, 29-42 PL, 35-31-5 O/U)
NHL: Thursday, March 22, 2018 at 9:30 p.m. EST
The Colorado Avalanche have won five of their last six games as they prepare to host the Los Angeles Kings at the Pepsi Center on Thursday night. Colorado is coming off consecutive victories over Detroit and Chicago. The Kings have alternated wins and losses dating all the way back to March 1 and they most recently fell at Winnipeg in overtime on Tuesday.
This contest is rich with Stanley Cup playoff implications while also featuring two Hart Trophy candidates. For the Kings, who are one point behind Colorado in the Western Conference standings, Anze Kopitar is also a legitimate Selke Trophy (NHL’s best defensive forward). Kopitar recorded an assist in each of the last two games and has two goals and 10 assists in his last nine contests, giving him team-highs of 29 goals and a career-high 82 points. Los Angeles split the first two contests of a current four-game road trip, defeating Minnesota 4-3 in overtime on Monday and losing to Winnipeg 2-1 in overtime on Tuesday.
“I think we got three out of four points against two tough opponents, which is a really positive thing,” head coach John Stevens said of the last two games. “But I think we want to be honest with ourselves and know we can play better….”
The Kings won the first of three meetings with Colorado this season, prevailing 2-1 at home on Dec. 21 thanks Dustin Brown’s overtime goal. Brown (23 goals, 51 points) has three goals and two assists in his last four games and is on pace for his most goals and assists since the 2010-11 campaign. Jeff Carter has eight goals and 10 points in 13 games since missing more than four months with an ankle injury, while Drew Doughty (54 points) continues to build a case to win his second Norris Trophy (best defenseman) in three seasons with eight assists in his last five outings.
Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon is riding a 13-game point streak and is the main reason why his team currently owns the top wild-card spot in the Western Conference. The MGM line featuring MacKinnon (team-highs of 38 goals and 91 points), Gabriel Landeskog (56 points), and Mikko Rantanen (79) continues to produce at a high level, with Rantanen recording his 26th goal on Tuesday while matching MacKinnon with his 53rd assist. Defenseman Tyson Barrie also had a goal and an assist against Chicago, giving him 15 points (six goals) during his career-high 11-game point streak. Varlamov (22-14-6, 2.69 goals-against average, .919 save percentage) has appeared in 18 straight games–starting 15 of the last 16–and is 6-1-3 with a .942 SVP in March.
“It’s crunch time and I think not just myself, but everyone is playing really well,” MacKinnon said after recording two assists in Tuesday’s 5-1 victory at Chicago, which gives him 13 goals and 26 points during his point streak. “We’re finding our gear and [goalie Semyon Varlamov] has been really good, too. If you don’t have goaltending, you’re not going to win in this league, obviously. He’s been awesome.”
The Los Angeles Kings are:
- 1-4 in their last five games against the Central Division
- 2-5 in their last seven games that are the fourth of a four games in six days situation
- 10-3-8 Under in their last 21 games against Colorado
The Colorado Avalanche are:
- 5-1 in their last six overall
- 17-5 in their last 22 home games
- 4-0 in their last four games playing on one day of rest
Kings’ center Trevor Lewis (14 goals, 25 points) is questionable to play after sustaining an upper-body injury on Monday and missing Tuesday’s game. Colorado center Colin Wilson returned on Tuesday after missing eight games because of a concussion and recorded an assist in 11:47 of ice time. With Varlamov in fine form and with home-ice advantage, the Avs have to like their chances on Thursday. Los Angeles is 1-4 in its last five against the Central Division and 2-5 in its last seven that are the fourth of a four games in six days situation. The Avalanche are 5-1 in their last six overall, 17-5 in their last 22 at home, 5-2 in their last seven following a win, and 4-0 in their last four playing on one day of rest. Look for those trends to continue.