Kings (10-6-3, 23 points) vs. Detroit Red Wings (9-7-1, 19 points) at Staples Center, 1 p.m.
Five storylines to track:
1. Pucks on net – The Kings are finally playing the brand of hockey coach Terry Murray envisioned. They’re trapping the puck in the offensive zone, cycling it from player to player and blasting away at the opposing net any time it’s within range. They're sticking with the system and getting uder the skin of the defense. They had a couple real “dirty” goals in a 5-3 victory Thursday night in Anaheim, a win that put them atop the Pacific Division point standings. For entertainment purposes, the Kings can still score the pretty ones too, most recently the shot fake Simon Gagne used on Ducks goalie Dan Ellis at the end of a short-handed breakaway Thursday night.
2. First ballot – After making his second All-Star team last season, Kings center Anze Kopitar is playing like a shoe-in for No. 3. The 24-year-old notched two more points Thursday night to increase his season total to 23, moving him into a tie for third in the NHL. With 3:01 remaining in regulation, he scored his first game winner of the season to break a 3-3 tie. What makes Kopitar more than just special is he also excels at the little things, such as killing penalties, playing excellent 5-on-5 defense and winning faceoffs. He has won 64 of his last 98 draws (65.3 percent), making him one of the most efficient artists in the league.
3. IR update – Slumping left wing Dustin Penner is reportedly not close to returning from a hand injury that sidelined him the last three games. That gives Andrei Loktionov more time to prove he’s ready to stick around for the long haul. The 21-year-old Russian flashed his offensive flair at various moments Wednesday and Thursday against the Ducks, getting an assist in the second game to help the Kings gain a sweep. When (if?) Penner returns, Loktionov is the only forward who could be sent down without being placed on re-entry waivers. That leaves him as the likely odd man out. Then again, the longer forwards Trevor Lewis and Brad Richardson go without a goal this season, the better chance one of them gets handed their walking papers instead.
4. Richer with Richards – Another player who’s earning every zero in his paycheck is Mike Richards. He combined for three goals in the victories against the Ducks, giving him seven goals along with eight assists. He’s on pace for his fifth straight 60-point season. His play is even more valuable when compared to wins and losses. When he scores at least one point this season, the Kings are 9-1-1. Richards against Detroit is a rare sight. He has played just five career games against the Red Wings but did have an assist in a monumental victory last January, when the Flyers beat the Red Wings in Detroit for the first time since 1988.
5. Three's a charm – The formula for a victory against the Red Wings seems pretty straightforward. The Kings are 7-0-0 this season when scoring three goals or more. Detroit is 1-7-1 when scoring two or less. Of course, nothing is consistent when it comes to the Red Wings this season. They opened 5-0, lost six in a row, then won four straight. They’re back on a losing streak after dropping their second straight Thursday night, 5-2, at San Jose. The Kings have had the right formula against the Red Wings the last two seasons, winning five of eight.