Kings (5-1-1, 11 points) vs. New Jersey Devils (3-2-1, 7 points) at Staples Center, 7:30 p.m.
Five storylines to track:
1. Back-up plan – Kings coach Terry Murray seemed to catch everyone off guard when he announced following practice Monday that he planned to start Jonathan Bernier in goal against the Devils, rather than Jonathan Quick, who has recorded a franchise-record three consecutive shutouts. Apparently, his preseason plan to stick with the “hot hand” came with an escape clause. Quick not only leads the NHL in shutouts, but he has the highest save percentage (.972) and the second-lowest goals-against average (.081).
2. Non-scoring clinic – Quick’s stellar play is a big reason the Kings lead the league in another category, the fewest goals against at 1.29 a game. Of course, the rest of the team has a hand in that statistic as well, particularly the veteran blue liners, Willie Mitchell and Rob Scuderi, who always seem to make the right choice with the puck. The Kings don’t have any players among the top 60 in the league in giveaways. New Jersey, meanwhile, has the No. 1 offender in that category, none other than Ilya Kovalchuk (13).
3. Penner drought – Seven forwards have scored at least one goal for the Kings this season, but none go by the name of Dustin Penner. To his defense, he sat out the first two games this season because of a groin injury and was limited in another after suffering a knee bruise. Still, the brawny left wing is due to light the lamp. If you count the end of last season, he has gone 18 consecutive regular-season games without a goal. His longest previous goal-less streak was 14 games from mid-February to mid-March in 2009.
4. Two-way Gagne – When the Kings signed Simon Gagne to a free-agent contract in the offseason, they knew they were getting a prolific goal scorer who had twice surpassed the 40-goal mark in his career. What they probably didn’t realize is what a fine two-way player they were also receiving. Heading into Tuesday’s games, he’s tied for fourth in the league in the plus-minus category at plus-6. Gagne was a minus-12 in 63 games last season with Tampa Bay, but is plus-137 for his career.
5. Game 2 vs. Devils – The Kings got a good look at the Devils just 12 days ago in New Jersey. It was the first game back in the U.S. after the Kings opened the season with back-to-back games in Europe, so they weren’t exactly motoring on all cylinders in the 2-1 shootout loss. In fact, Murray said the Kings hit a wall after the first period. The rematch should provide a better barometer for the Kings, who have won four straight since the loss in New Jersey.