Roughly a week ago, the Montreal Canadiens walked into the Staples Center in the back half of a back-to-back and dropped a 5-1 decision to the Los Angeles Kings. In that game, the Habs started brightly, faded in the second, and collapsed in the third as their legs got the better of them.
A week later, and after much consternation and strife, Montreal is trying to build on their first regulation victory of the season, a decisive 5-1 result over the Florida Panthers. Meanwhile, the Kings have continued on with their hot start to the season, with wins over the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Ottawa Senators sandwiching a loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Last time the the two teams met, the Canadiens held the Kings’ big guns in check, but were undone by the third line of Mike Cammalleri (2G, 1A), Adrian Kempe (3G, 1A), and Trevor Lewis (1A). Particularly victimized were the Paul Byron-Phillip Danault-Andrew Shaw (2 ES GA) and the Charles Hudon-Jacob de la Rose-Brendan Gallagher (2 ES GA) trios along with the Karl Alzner-Jeff Petry pairing. None of those player combinations were used against the Panthers, and it’s likely that the Kings will faceoff at the Bell Centre against a team deployment completely alien to the one they saw previously.
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Tale of the Tape
After tinkering with different lineups for each of their last three games, the Canadiens will probably use the same trios and pairings that worked against the Panthers. In that game, every line tallied an even strength goal, except for the fourth, and both power play units managed to light the lamp.
Despite their success, the Kings still find themselves leaning very heavily on their big guns early in the season. Drew Doughty (27 each) and Anze Kopitar (23 each) both logged big minutes over consecutive nights against Toronto and Ottawa, with the fourth line clocking in at or below the 10 minute mark on both nights. LA’s depth issues are further exacerbated by the injury to Jeff Carter, and they have experimented with Nick Shore and Hab-killer Kempe in his second line centre position.
In contrast, the Canadiens deployed their four lines and three pairings almost equally against the Panthers. Forward even-strength ice times ranged from 14:54 (Byron) to 10:13 (Artturi Lehkonen), and defender TOI ranged between 17:25 (Alzner) and 15:52 (Victor Mete).
During their first meeting, the Canadiens found themselves overwhelmed by a Kings third line that had really not produced prior to that game, or since for that matter - Kempe’s four points that night account for more than half of his season total of seven. Now, at home with fresh legs, and having restored some measure of confidence, Carey Price and company will seek to emulate the first period - and not the third - of their game in the City of Angels.