NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Monday’s matchup between the Los Angeles Kings and Tampa Bay Lightning. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.
These two teams couldn’t be heading in more opposite directions. The Bolts are the best team in the league, while the Kings are the worst team in the West.
The Lightning have an opportunity to rattle off their ninth consecutive win tonight. During this winning streak, they’ve scored five goals or more in six games and they’ve given up one goal or fewer in four of their last five. They haven’t dropped a game in regulation all month (their last regulation loss came on Jan. 30).
They’re a machine.
If you try to focus on stopping Brayden Point‘s line which has NHL scoring leader Nikita Kucherov on it (easier said than done, by the way), they can come after you with Steven Stamkos‘ line. They’re also stacked on the blue line with guys like Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh, Mikhail Sergachev and veterans like Braydon Coburn, Anton Stralman and Dan Girardi.
On top of all that, they have one of the best goalies in the game in Andrei Vasilevskiy. So when the Bolts come out of the game slow like they did against the Columbus Blue Jackets last week, they have a goalie that can bail them out of trouble until they wake up.
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“Fans the last six years have been pretty fortunate to first get to enjoy Ben Bishop and how he helped our franchise, and then to see Vasilevskiy,” Jon Cooper said. “Vasy’s taken the baton and kept it going. It’s great watching Vasy come into his own in this league at such a young age (24). I couldn’t be happier for him.”
As for the Kings, they come into tonight’s game having dropped four in a row in regulation and seven in a row overall. They haven’t won a game in regulation since Feb. 5.
“It’s embarrassing,” Drew Doughty said after Saturday’s 6-1 loss to the Florida Panthers. “It’s the fact that we’re not playing with any pride. We have a chance to come back in the third period. We got four … shots on net. In a third period where, we’re supposed to absolutely blow everything on the table offensively, and we get four shots on net, and they score two goals. The fact that we’re not playing with pride and we’re not working for each other, that’s the scary part about what’s going on right now.”
There’s several issues in Los Angeles right now, but scoring has to be considered the biggest one. As of right now, the Kings have scored just 145 goals in 61 games. Only the Anaheim Ducks have scored fewer times in 2018-19.
The Kings have been out of the playoff race for a while, so they’ve traded away some of their older players, including Jake Muzzin, Nate Thompson and Carl Hagelin.
“We’re all real people, right? It’s going to wear on you when the team’s not doing well and there’s changes being made,” forward Jeff Carter said. “It’s just the reality of it. But when you step on the ice, you’ve got to play hockey, too. We’ve got to show up. You’ve got to do your job. Myself included, it’s been a struggle.”
Rick Peckham (play-by-play) and Jim Fox (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) will have the call from Amalie Arena in Tampa, Fla. Pre-game coverage starts at 6:30 p.m. ET with NHL Live, hosted by Kathryn Tappen alongside Jeremy Roenick and Keith Jones.
Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.