The Los Angeles Kings are scoring almost a goal per game more than last season and the improved offensive production, paired with the league’s best defense, has put them back on top of the Pacific Division. The Kings look to continue their early-season success on both ends of the ice when they host the Eastern Conference-leading Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night.
Los Angeles is 5-1-1 in its last seven contests after scoring the final three goals of the game to beat rival Anaheim 4-3 in overtime Tuesday. “There’s really no quit in here,” Kings captain Anze Kopitar told reporters. “. … We get down two goals early, but seemed like there was a sense of calmness on the bench. Nobody panicked. Nobody was running around like a maniac. We kept cool, kept our composure and started plugging away.” The Lightning opened a three-game west coast trip with a dominant 5-1 victory at San Jose on Wednesday as the top line of Vladislav Namestnikov, captain Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov continued their strong play by combining for nine points. Stamkos leads the NHL with 28 points and Kucherov has posted an NHL-most 15 goals in 16 games as the Lightning recorded a point for the 13th time in the last 14 contests.
TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, Sportsnet, FSN Sun (Tampa Bay), FSN West (Los Angeles)
ABOUT THE LIGHTNING (12-2-2): Namestnikov has fit in well with his high-scoring linemates while registering two of his seven goals and adding an assist Wednesday to push his season total to 17 points after finishing with 28 in 74 games in 2016-17. The Tampa Bay defense moved into double figures in goals (11) Wednesday after Jake Dotchin notched his first in the NHL and Slater Koekkoek added his third. Backup goalie Peter Budaj, who went 27-20-3 with a 2.12 goals-against average with the Kings last season before being traded, could get his third start of the campaign Thursday.
ABOUT THE KINGS (11-2-2): Kopitar has rebounded from a rough 2016-17 season to roar out of the gate with team highs of eight goals and 19 points while Dustin Brown regained his scoring touch with 15 points after notching two Tuesday. Young forwards Adrian Kempe (seven goals, 11 points) and undrafted Alex Iafallo (six points, three in the last two games) have added a spark to the offense as well. The Kings are also getting production from their back end as Jake Muzzin boasts 11 points and former Norris Trophy winner Drew Doughty has 10.
1. Tampa Bay C Brayden Point boasts nine points (four goals) in his last eight contests and owns at least one point in five straight.
2. Los Angeles G Jonathan Quick owns nine wins this season and is 6-1-1 with a .949 save percentage lifetime versus the Lightning.
3. The Lightning have won three of the past four meetings, including both last season by a combined score of 7-1.
PREDICTION: Kings 3, Lightning 2