LA Kings suddenly have plenty of issues on defense

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The Los Angeles Kings are down 1-0 in their first-round series to the Vegas Golden Knights and things have only gotten more difficult ahead of Game 2 on Friday night.

The Kings will be without Drew Doughty, because he was suspended for an illegal check to the head of Golden Knights forward William Carrier. As you’d imagine, not having Doughty is a major problem for them. On top of that suspension, they may not have Jake Muzzin (upper body) and Derek Forbort (lower body) at their disposal. Muzzin missed Game 1 and the final five games of the regular season, while Forbort missed the last two games of the season and Game 1, too.

Let’s start with Doughty, who is the most important blue liner of the three. The 28-year-old played in all 82 games during the regular season. He averaged almost 27 minutes of ice time over those games and while his team got 50.01 percent of the shot attempts overall, they got 52.76 percent of them when Doughty was on the ice. There aren’t too many defenseman better than him, so the fact that the Kings won’t be able to rely on him for one playoff game is a major disadvantage.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Muzzin, who averaged 21:39 during the season, also racked up an impressive eight goals and 42 points in 2017-18. With Muzzin on the ice, the Kings actually controlled slightly more of the shot attempts (52.93 percent) than when Doughty was on the ice. The 29-year-old hasn’t been ruled out for Game 2 yet, but he still hasn’t been able to take contact during practice.

Forbort isn’t as big of a name as the other two, but he still logged a significant amount of ice (averaged 20:47 throughout the regular season). He isn’t as gifted offensively as Doughty and Muzzin, but he still managed to post a Corsi For% number higher than 50 percent (50.33). Forbort played over 829 minutes with Drew Doughty, which means the Kings will be missing their top pairing in Game 2 and arguably their second-best defenseman in Muzzin.

As the old saying goes, “you’re not in trouble until you lose a game on home ice.” But heading back to Los Angeles down 0-2 is less than an ideal spot to be in when you’re playing an expansion team that is faster and deeper than you up front.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

WATCH LIVE: Los Angeles Kings at Minnesota Wild

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 season continues on Monday night when the Los Angeles Kings visit the Minnesota Wild. Puck drop is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET. You can catch all of the action on NBCSN or on our Live Stream.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

KINGS
Tobias RiederAnze KopitarDustin Brown
Tanner PearsonJeff CarterTrevor Lewis
Kyle CliffordAdrian KempeTyler Toffoli
Andy AndreoffNate ThompsonTorrey Mitchell

Derek ForbortDrew Doughty
Alec MartinezDion Phaneuf
Jake MuzzinChristian Folin

Starting goalie: Jonathan Quick

[NHL on NBCSN: Kings, Wild continue pursuit of important points]

WATCH LIVE – 8 P.M. ET

WILD
Jason ZuckerEric StaalNino Niederreiter
Zach PariseMikko KoivuMikael Granlund
Tyler EnnisMatt CullenCharlie Coyle
Marcus FolignoJoel Eriksson EkDaniel Winnik

Ryan SuterMatt Dumba
Jonas Brodin – Ryan Murphy
Nick SeelerNate Prosser

Starting goalie: Devan Dubnyk

WATCH LIVE: Red Wings at Kings

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CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

PROJECTED LINES

Detroit Red Wings

Tyler BertuzziHenrik ZetterbergGustav Nyquist

Darren HelmDylan LarkinAnthony Mantha

Justin AbdelkaderFrans NielsenAndreas Athanasiou

Martin FrkLuke Glendening — Evgeny Svechnikov

Jonathan EricssonTrevor Daley

Dan DeKeyserNick Jensen

Niklas KronwallMike Green

Starting goalie: Jared Coreau

[Red Wings – Kings preview.]

Los Angeles Kings

Alex IafalloAnze KopitarDustin Brown

Tobias RiederJeff CarterTrevor Lewis

Tanner PearsonAdrian KempeTyler Toffoli

Kyle CliffordMichael AmadioNate Thompson

Derek ForbortDrew Doughty

Dion PhaneufAlec Martinez

Jake Muzzin — Paul LaDue

Starting goalie: Jonathan Quick

WATCH LIVE: Los Angeles Kings at Vegas Golden Knights

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CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

PROJECTED LINES

Los Angeles Kings

Alex IafalloAnze KopitarDustin Brown

Tanner PearsonJeff CarterTyler Toffoli

Tobias RiederAdrian KempeNate Thompson

Kyle CliffordMichael AmadioTorrey Mitchell

Derek ForbortDrew Doughty

Dion PhaneufAlec Martinez

Jake MuzzinChristian Folin

Starting goalie: Jack Campbell

[Kings – Golden Knights preview.]

Vegas Golden Knights

Jonathan MarchessaultWilliam KarlssonReilly Smith

David PerronErik HaulaJames Neal

Alex TuchCody EakinTomas Tatar

Ryan ReavesRyan CarpenterTomas Nosek

Luca SbisaNate Schmidt

Shea TheodoreDeryk Engelland

Colin MillerBrayden McNabb

Starting goalie: Maxime Lagace

Trade: Senators send Dion Phaneuf to Kings

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Be sure to visit NBCOlympics.com and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang.

Dion Phaneuf‘s contract isn’t pretty, but after seeing it move twice in trades already, you can’t say that it’s impossible to trade.

The Ottawa Senators proved that after the Toronto Maple Leafs before them,* sending the defenseman and (most) of his enormous contract to the Los Angeles Kings in a startling deal that might really kick off the looming trade deadline.

* – Not to mention the Calgary Flames, although that was on a previous deal.

Update: The Kings made the trade official. GM Rob Blake had this to say about Phaneuf:

“Dion brings to our club a great deal of experience and leadership. He also plays with a physical edge which complements our line-up well. Nate has a good reputation of being a high-energy player on the ice. Both guys are also high character guys,” Blake said.

TSN’s Darren Dreger was the first to report the terms with others reporting the same, while the deal hasn’t been confirmed by the teams yet:

Kings get: Phaneuf (at that 25-percent discount) and Nate Thompson. This means Phaneuf will carry a $5.25 million cap hit for L.A. through 2020-21.

Senators receive: Marian Gaborik and Nick Shore.

Why?

The Senators’ perspective is simple: they save money. While Gaborik carries a $4.875 million cap hit through 2020-21, his actual salary really plummets starting next season. Shore’s contract expires while Thompson is owed $1.65M in 2018-19.

It’s pretty easy to see the Senators’ side of this, especially when you consider their budgetary concerns.

The Kings’ perspective is a little more surprising, at least since still-fairly-new GM Rob Blake seemed to be changing some of the organization’s habits. Going for a big name with a big contract feels a lot like some of the hit-or-miss moves from former GM Dean Lombardi’s latter years, like trading for Milan Lucic and Jarome Iginla. (Not to mention Vincent Lecavalier.)

Looking at Phaneuf’s stats from a variety of perspectives, you generally get “middling” if you’re optimistic and “flat-out bad” the deeper you dig. Via this handy tool from CJ Turtoro using Corey Sznajder’s data, you can see that Phaneuf doesn’t really compare all that favorably to Derek Forbort, a Kings defenseman they’d likely hope to upgrade on:

Perhaps the Kings believe that Phaneuf can turn things around with a change of scenery?

The Kings are battling for a playoff spot, and with an aging core, they’re clearly trying to make the most of this sometimes-promising season. Acquiring Phaneuf is quite a gamble, though.

Side note: Both teams lost their games on Tuesday. The Senators fell 6-3 to the Penguins while the Hurricanes handed the Kings a 7-3 drubbing.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.