GAME DAY: Los Angeles
Columbus aims for back-to-back wins, welcoming the defending Stanley Cup champs at Nationwide Arena tonight
BLUE JACKETS (3-5-1) VS. KINGS (2-3-2)
NATIONWIDE ARENA | COLUMBUS, OH
7 P.M. TONIGHT
TV: FOX SPORTS OHIO (HD) | RADIO: CD 102.5 & BLUEJACKETS.COM
There's not a lot of motivation needed when the defending Stanley Cup champions come and visit your building.
And given the budding rivalry between the Blue Jackets and the Los Angeles Kings (these clubs played four spirited games against each other last season), the emotions should be even higher tonight when the puck drops at Nationwide Arena. The Kings haven't gotten out to the best start, winning just two of their first eight games, and allowed seven goals to the Anaheim Ducks over the weekend.
Jonathan Quick didn't make it through Saturday's game, the first time he had been pulled in almost a year (Feb. 22, 2012 was the last time) and it happened to come in one of Los Angeles' worst defensive efforts in quite some time. The Ducks had all the room they needed to make plays and shoot the puck, so an improved defensive effort can be expected when they take on the Blue Jackets tonight.
The Kings started the season without their best player in Anze Kopitar and it showed, as they struggled out of the gate and couldn't generate a lot of offense. They were beaten handily in their home opener by the Chicago Blackhawks, then dropped their next two games at Colorado and Edmonton (remember that much-discussed Nail Yakupov celebration?) before notching their first win last weekend in Phoenix. They won their next game, too, a shootout victory over the Vancouver Canucks that looked to give them some serious momentum, but the Kings stumbled two nights later in a shootout loss to Nashville.
While it's hard to repeat their second-half surge from a year ago, the Kings have to be frustrated by their "on again, off again" play that hasn't produced many positive results to this point in 2013. Much like the Blue Jackets, Los Angeles has had scoring troubles -- averaging exactly two goals per game in its first eight contests -- and is looking for its top players to produce at a higher clip. The Kings' leading scorer at the moment is Kyle Clifford with one goal and five points on the scoresheet, which isn't exactly what Darryl Sutter is looking for.
Notable Kings who have yet to find the back of the net: Simon Gagne, Mike Richards, Drew Doughty and Dustin Penner.
Quick is expected to get the start in goal tonight for the Kings, who arrived in Columbus yesterday and will be well-rested for tonight's game. They have yet to start Jonathan Bernier, their young backup goaltender who reportedly asked for a trade in the offseason.
- Following a perfect 5-for-5 effort on Saturday night against Detroit, the Blue Jackets' penalty kill unit has risen to seventh-best in the NHL (85.7 percent).
- Artem Anisimov's two goals against the Red Wings had a profound impact on the outcome, and when he scores, the Blue Jackets usually fare pretty well. Columbus holds a 3-1-0 record on the season when Anisimov records at least a point.
- Steve Mason has stopped 46 of the last 48 shots he's faced (.958 save percentage).
- Fedor Tyutin is not only playing big minutes for the Blue Jackets in all situations, but he's putting up the points, as well. He picked up a pair of assists against Detroit, and is the Blue Jackets' leading scorer with seven points (one goal, six assists) in the first nine games.
RIGHT WING | #23
2013 STATS: 3-1-4, 7 GP
Brown is the Kings' emotional leader both on and off the ice, and has grown to become one of hockey's most effective power forwards. He plays a fearless style and goes hard to the net, and easily gets under the skin of the opponent. Brown, a native of New York, is a five-time 20-goal scorer in the NHL and scored 20 points in 20 playoffs games for the Kings last year.
COLUMBUS: Cam Atkinson (lower body), IR; Adrian Aucoin (lower body), IR; Nikita Nikitin (upper body), IR; Matt Calvert (upper body), IR; James Wisniewski (upper body), day-to-day.
LOS ANGELES: Matt Greene, Willie Mitchell