For all that’s been said about how NHL teams have lost out on sending players to the Olympics, people usually don’t give much thought to teams turning their fortunes around following a change of scenery. One game doesn’t tell the whole story, yet it’s possible that the Los Angeles Kings might carry momentum over from some strong Sochi performances.
After falling behind 4-2 with less than five minutes left in the second period, the Kings really turned things around against the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday, scoring four unanswered goals for a 6-4 win.
Those six goals equal the Kings’ output from their last seven games heading into the Olympic break.
Anze Kopitar starred for the otherwise star-less Slovenians in Sochi, and he carried his success over tonight, scoring two of those four late Los Angeles goals, including the power-play game-winner in the third period. He also had an assist in the contest.
Here’s video of Kopitar’s game-winner:
The Kings now have two straight wins after beating the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1 in OT heading into the Olympic break. They had only won two of their last 11 games heading into Wednesday, so the clear hope is that the strong runs by Kopitar, Drew Doughty & Co. will end up being signs of better things to come.
(Jonathan Quick received the night off, as Martin Jones notched the win.)
The Avalanche find themselves in a minor funk – at least if you carry over results from before the break – as they’ve now lost three of four games. They play six of their next eight contests in Colorado, so there’s a lot of incentive to avoid a lull following the break.
Talk about getting thrown into the fire.
Antti Niemi is expected to be the starting goalie tonight in Dallas when his Stars host Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin and the rest of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Niemi has, not surprisingly, been given the assignment over Kari Lehtonen, the latter of whom struggled badly during the preseason, allowing 15 goals on 84 shots.
Not that Niemi was razor sharp himself. He allowed eight goals on 65 shots, for a save percentage of .877.
Considering the Stars have a combined $10.4 million in cap space tied up in those two veteran netminders, it’s no wonder the number-one question facing the club is whether the goaltending has indeed been fixed.
We’ll start to find out tonight.
Marc-Andre Fleury will undoubtedly be in goal for Pittsburgh, though that hasn’t been confirmed.
— Craig Anderson, the goalie the Senators decided to keep, versus Robin Lehner, the one they traded to the Sabres.
— Cam Ward will start for Carolina when the Hurricanes visit the Predators, who will obviously go with Pekka Rinne. The consensus is that Eddie Lack will eventually supplant Ward as Carolina’s starter, but that apparently hasn’t happened yet.
— Brian Elliott goes for the Blues versus Cam Talbot for the Oilers. Elliott was excellent in the preseason, stopping all but two of the 57 shots he faced, while Jake Allen allowed six goals on 60 shots.
— Steve Mason for the Flyers versus Ben Bishop for the Lightning.
— Ondrej Pavelec for Winnipeg versus Tuukka Rask for Boston.
— Devan Dubnyk likely for the Wild versus Semyon Varlamov for the Avs.
Jakub Voracek totally understands why nobody’s expecting much from the Philadelphia Flyers. When a team finishes 14 points out of the playoffs the year before, that’s typically going to be the case.
“We weren’t good enough last year, let’s face it,” Voracek told CSN Philly.
So, no, it doesn’t upset him that the Flyers aren’t considered among the Stanley Cup favorites.
That being said, “it makes you feel you want to prove them wrong.”
The Flyers get going tonight with a tough game against the Lightning in Tampa Bay. They also play Saturday in Florida against the Panthers, before a rematch with the Panthers Monday in Philadelphia.
“My biggest concern would be getting off to a good start,” GM Ron Hextall said. “That’s one thing that we need to do.”
That’s something they didn’t do last year. In fact, they won just once in their first six games. By the end of November, they were 8-12-3 and in a big hole — one that proved too deep to climb out of.
Related: Flyers to start season with seven defensemen