The Bruins (23-16-7) will wrap up their West Coast swing Saturday afternoon at the Staples Center with a matinee skate against the Los Angeles Kings (26-18-3). The Kings currently sit in the West’s 8th spot, just one point ahead of defending Western Conference champs, the Detroit Red Wings.
Ironically, both teams headed into their games Thursday night with three-game losing streaks, and both teams ended those streaks. In L.A., the Kings finally earned their first shutout of the season, topping the Anaheim Ducks 4-0. Boston, with an extremely depleted lineup, was able to outplay the West’s top squad in San Jose, beating the Sharks 2-1 in a shootout, behind Tim Thomas’s 41 saves and captain Zdeno Chara’s shootout goal past San Jose’s Evgeni Nabokov.
Let’s get right to the game notes for today. It might not be “Celtics vs. Lakers,” but who doesn’t love a good “Boston vs. L.A.” rivalry game, right?
In their only meeting last season, the Bruins blew a late 2-0 lead, giving up two late third period goals, followed by another in overtime to fall 3-2 to the Kings last March. The last time Boston played in Los Angeles, the B’s won a wild one, 8-6, in October of 2007. In that game, B’s winger Milan Lucic notched his first career goal.
The Kings will play their fifth straight home game today against Boston, with two more to go on their season-long seven-game homestand. They are 1-2-1 thus far.
Getting a lead early on the Kings will be key for Boston. Los Angeles is one of just four teams left in the NHL that have not blown a lead after two periods. The other three are New Jersey, Buffalo, and Montreal.
Boston’s lack of scoring has been a major story all season long. Their 119 goals on the year are more than just two teams in the league, with Carolina’s 115 and Detroit’s 118 the only totals below them. On the flip side however, there are only three teams that have given up less goals than the B’s, who have let in just 112. New Jersey ranks atop that list, with just 98 goals against, followed by Chicago’s 102 and Buffalo’s 103.
The other major story this season for Boston has of course been injuries. The B’s may see defenseman Mark Stuart (broken sternum) return as early as today. Stuart has been out for six weeks. The other defenseman on the shelf, Andrew Ference (groin), will be out until after the Olympic break. On the forward lines, injuries have riddled the center position. Marc Savard (knee) remains out, while Patrice Bergeron (broken thumb) is nearing a return, possibly as early as Monday. Also out now for Boston is center David Krejci, who is listed as day-to-day with an undisclosed injury. As for the Kings’ medical report, defenseman Matt Greene (lower body injury) is out indefinitely, while a trio of players are on injured reserve, including blue-liner Davis Drewiske (shoulder), and forwards Justin Williams (ankle) and Andrei Lokitonov (shoulder).
Scoring for the Kings is led by center Anze Kopitar (18G, 27A), who has six points in his last six games. Following Kopitar is defenseman Drew Doughty (9G, 26A) and captain Dustin Brown (11G, 20A), who on Thursday against Anaheim, scored his 100th career goal.
In net for the Kings, all but five games this season have been started by former UMass Amherst standout goalie Jonathan Quick. Quick, who on New Year’s Day was named to the U.S. Olympic team, is 24-15-3 on the year, with a 2.53GAA. Quick led UMass Amherst to their first-ever NCAA tournament appearance back in 2007. He is backed up by Erik Ersberg (2-3-0, 3.21GAA).
The only other familiar face on the Kings roster to local hockey fans is veteran defenseman and former Bruin, Sean O’Donnell. The 38-year-old O’Donnell, who is in his 15th NHL season, played for the Bruins for three years from 2001-04, putting up five goals and 47 assists for the B’s during that time. O’Donnell has a goal and eight assists in 43 games for the Kings this season.
Lastly, an NHL source has indicated that the Bruins will be among four teams that will begin the 2010-11 season overseas. According to this source, Boston will head to Prague in the Czech Republic to play a pair of games against the Phoenix Coyotes to start the regular season. Also, the Bruins would play some exhibition games against other European teams before these games with Phoenix. The Bruins have two Czechs on their current roster, forwards Vladimir Sobotka and Czech Olympian David Krejci.