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Pittsburgh vs. Los Angeles Preview

by Jason Seidling / Pittsburgh Penguins

Pittsburgh Penguins (12-3-0-24) vs. Los Angeles Kings (9-4-2-20)

Where: STAPLES Center
When:
Thursday, Nov. 5 at 10:30 p.m.
Radio:
WXDX Radio, FM 105.9
TV:
FSN Pittsburgh, the game will be broadcast in HD, available on Armstrong 179, Atlantic Broadband 782, Citizen 737, Comcast 226/774, DISH 428, DirecTV 659 and Verizon Fios 576.
*View FSN's Broadcast Schedule here()

Season Series:
Thursday is the only regular-season meeting between the Penguins and Kings in 2009-10. Pittsburgh won the only contest last season, 4-1, at Mellon Arena on March 20. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin each registered a goal and an assist in that contest while Marc-Andre Fleury made 24 saves.

 
PENGUINS PROJECTED LINES RELATED CONTENT
Forwards
Kunitz-Crosby-Guerin
Cooke-Staal-Kennedy
Dupuis-Adams-Fedotenko
Bourque-Rupp-Godard

Defense
Orpik-Letang
Eaton-Skoula
McKee-Goligoski

Netminder
Fleury


Previous Meeting: Mar. 20, 2009
LAK 1 - PIT 4
Game Highlights
AP Recap
 
KEY TO VICTORY
Stay Out of the Box: Los Angeles’ outstanding collection of forwards makes them dangerous in all situations, but especially with the man-advantage. The Kings’ 34.8 percent rate on the power play at STAPLES Center is the top figure in the league. Pittsburgh counters with the National Hockey League’s seventh-best road penalty-killing unit. 

Avoid a Barn-Burner:
Because of their ever-improving forward unit, Los Angeles is not afraid to open the game, particularly at home. With several of their top players injured and the Kings one of the higher scoring teams at home, Pittsburgh needs to control the time of possession and keep the game from being an up-and-down affair, which would play right into the Kings’ hand.
 
LOWDOWN ON THE KINGS
Los Angeles has struggled since an illegal stick penalty against Marty McSorley in Game 2 of the 1993 Stanley Cup Final changed the course of the series and allowed Montreal to claim the title. The team has missed the playoffs 11 of the next 15 seasons, including the past six consecutive. The Kings appear to have righted the ship in ’09-10, winning nine of their first 15 games to post the Western Conference’s third-best record through Tuesday.

Veteran head coach Terry Murray was hired to prior to the start of last season to develop the vast array of talented young faces on the Kings’ roster. Penguins fans should remember Murray well as he spent stints with the Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers during the 1990s. A veteran of 834 hockey games, Murray won his 400th career game on Oct. 22 when the Kings defeated the Dallas Stars, 5-4, in overtime.
 
NEW FACES
Los Angeles did a great job in the offseason adding character veterans to supplement their core of youngsters by signing defensive-minded Rob Scuderi from the Penguins and trading defensemen Kyle Quincey and Tom Preissing to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for Ryan Smyth.

Scuderi developed from a depth defender when he broke into the league into a vital cog of the Penguins’ championship team pairing with Hal Gill to provide a shutdown duo which held the Carolina Hurricanes Eric Staal and Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg in check over the last two rounds of the postseason in ’08-09. He enjoyed a career year during the regular season with 16 points (1G-15A) and a team-best plus-23 rating.   

There is a reason Smyth’s nickname is ‘Captain Canada’, as the long-time Edmonton Oiler is highly regarded as one of the best leaders and most-respected teammates in the sport. Smyth’s game is more than intangibles, evidenced by his 679 career points (318G-361A) in 935 games. One of the game’s top power forwards with a deft scoring touch around the front of the net, Smyth has eight goals and 11 assists through 15 games.

Wisconsin-born defenseman Davis Drewiske has been a pleasant surprise for the Kings during his first full campaign. Solidly-built at 6-foot-2, 222 pounds, Drewiske ranks among the league leaders in the early going with a plus-10 rating while also contributing five points (1G-4A) despite being more regarded as a stay-at-home presence. Los Angeles claimed former Flyer Randy Jones off waivers on Oct. 29 but he has yet to suit up for the Kings.
 
FORWARDS
Especially with their play through the season’s opening month, Los Angeles’ top two lines rival the talent level of any in the league, led by NHL scoring leader Anze Kopitar (See Player Spotlight below) and offseason addition Ryan Smyth. Joining those two on the top line is shifty Justin Williams, who recently returned from missing five games with a lower-body injury. Williams can be an effective offensive weapon, but he has missed plenty of action the past three seasons. He is averaging a point per game in ’09-10 with 10 points (4G-6A) in 10 contests.

Los Angeles has also received plenty of goals from their second line of Michael Handzus at center between captain Dustin Brown and Alexander Frolov. One of the better two-way performers, Handzus is a big center who has hit the 20-goal mark three times during his career. Brown teams with Smyth to give Los Angeles two big, physical wingers capable of making life miserable for defensemen and goaltenders in front of the net. He ranks third on the team with 13 points (4G-9A). Frolov is sometimes streaky offensively, but when he is on his game, he can be as dynamic as anyone. The sharp-shooting Frolov led Los Angeles with 32 goals in ’08-09 and has recorded 50-plus points four consecutive seasons. Third line center Jarret Stoll is one of seven Kings with double-digit points (3G+8A=11PTS).
 
DEFENSEMEN
Second-year blueliner Drew Doughty can be considered one of the preeminent defensive stars at only 19 years of age. He missed only one game for the Kings as a rookie, contributing 27 points (6G-21A) while averaging a team-high 23:50 of ice time per game. A tremendous skater with creative offensive skills, Doughty ranks third (tied) through Tuesday among all defensemen with 13 points (3G-10A). He has a plus-4 rating after posting a minus-17 in ’08-09.

Jack Johnson, one of Sidney Crosby’s best friends, teams with Doughty to provide a talented young duo that could play together for years to come. Johnson’s game is more based around taking care of the defensive zone and providing a physical presence. He missed half of last season with a shoulder injury, but did record 11 points, including a career-high six goals. Johnson has four points (1G-3A) through 15 games. Veteran defensemen Sean O’Donnell and Matt Greene team with former Penguin Rob Scuderi to offer stay-at-home defensive presences along the back line. O’Donnell is fourth on the team with a plus-6 rating while Greene serves as an alternate captain.
 
GOALTENDING
Jonathan Quick’s play during the second half of last season has given the Kings goaltending stability for the first time in several seasons. His performance allowed the team to trade Jason LaBarbera, expected to be the starter, to Vancouver at midseason. Quick finished his rookie year with a record of 21-18-2 with four shutouts, a 2.48 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage.

Born in Milford, Conn., Quick was a third-round selection of the Kings in 2005. He has started 14 of the team’s 15 games, ranking second (tied) with nine wins to go with a 2.61 goals-against average and a .901 save percentage.

Erik Ersberg has made only one appearance for the Kings in ’09-10, allowing four goals on 21 shots versus the New York Rangers on Oct. 14, but went 8-11-5 with a 2.64 goals-against average and a .900 save percentage last year.
 
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: ANZE KOPITAR
Thursday’s matchup will feature the NHL’s leading scorer, but the name atop the list is not the one everyone expects to see. Slovenian center Anze Kopitar has blossomed in his fourth campaign, leading all scorers through Tuesday night with 24 points (11G-13A). Kopitar was drafted 11th overall in 2005, 10 spots after the Penguins selected Sidney Crosby.

The total package, Kopitar has an arsenal that features size (6-foot-3, 222 pounds), speed, playmaking ability and a natural goal-scoring touch. He led the Kings in ’08-09 with 66 points (27G-39A) and has scored 20 or more goals and recorded at least 61 points in each of his first three seasons. Kopitar serves as an alternate captain for the Kings.
 
INJURY UPDATE
Los Angeles has only one player currently out because of injury – defenseman Alec Martinez – out indefinitely with a high-ankle sprain.
 
"THEY SAID IT"
"I thought we had a little lull there in the second. I've got to give (the Coyotes) credit. They played well and they took the lead, but we built some character in this locker room tonight, going into the third, and I think that was a big step." 

– Ryan Smyth assessing the Kings’ third-period comeback victory over the Coyotes Monday night to Yahoo! Sports.

 
POINT OF INTEREST
54: Hits for Kings forward Dustin Brown, ranking him third in the league. 
 

Author: Jason Seidling

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