Kings (21-15-8, 50 points) vs. Calgary Flames (21-19-5, 47 points) at Scotiabank Saddledome, 7 p.m.
Five storylines to track:
1. Kopitar OK – The Kings really dodged a bullet Thursday night. Anze Kopitar, the team’s leading scorer the last four seasons, was feeling fine the day after getting slammed into the boards as a result of a third-period hit by Dallas captain Brenden Morrow. Kopitar was drilled as he attempted a wrap-around move behind the net, apparently not catching a glimpse of Morrow railroading towards him. He spun like a helicopter face first into the boards, hard enough to sustain a bloody nose. Kopitar was confined to the “quiet room” for evaluation as the Kings went on to lose in a shootout, 5-4. It appears there’s nothing to keep Kopitar from playing against the Flames.
2. Defining moment – Successful teams can typically look back on a season and spot a turning point, whether it’s a come-from-behind victory, a hard-fought shutout or an adrenaline-filled line brawl. The Kings might reflect on Morrow’s hit as their defining moment. As Kopitar lay sprawled face down in the corner, teammate Mike Richards went after Morrow, challenging and receiving a fight. Sure, the Kings playmaker earned four extra penalty minutes, long enough for the Stars to score the tying goal on the power play with just under six minutes remaining in regulation, but every player for the Kings should feel inspired by Richards’ response, especially since he just returned three weeks ago from an eight-game absence due to a head injury.
3. Coming home – Kings coach Darryl Sutter is sure to generate a lot of attention with his return to Calgary. He was coach and/or general manager with the Flames from December 2002 to December 2010 and was living and working on a ranch about 90 miles north of Calgary when he got the call from the Kings to come down and coach. It will be interesting to see how the Calgary fans react to Sutter, who led the Flames to a Stanley Cup final run in 2004. They have to be impressed with his work with the Kings so far. The club has earned points in 10 of 11 games since he was hired.
4. Jack the Scorer – Nobody’s rooting more for the 2013 Winter Classic to be held at Michigan than Kings defenseman Jack Johnson, who played two seasons for the Wolverines. Johnson, who turned 25 on Friday, has been generating a lot of excitement himself lately. He has five points in the last two games, scoring goals in back-to-back games for just the second time in his career. His three-point effort against the Stars was also his first three-pointer since last Feb. 2. Somebody get that man a shorter stick.
5. Familiar face – The Kings probably thought they’d seen the last of Michael Cammalleri after they hosted the Canadiens on Dec. 3, but then Cammalleri, the last player to lead the Kings in scoring not named Kopitar, was traded Thursday to the Flames. Cammalleri has also spent time in Calgary, scoring 39 goals while Sutter was the GM in 2008-09. It will be interesting to see how long it takes for Cammalleri to mesh with the top Calgary forwards. For the Kings' sake, hopefully more than a game.