The Penguins won’t see the Kings best lineup tonight as LA will not dress top forwards Anze Kopitar, Marian Gaborik or Trevor Lewis tonight, while backup goaltender Martin Jones will get the start in goal over Jonathan Quick, who the Kings have opted to start tomorrow night in Detroit.
Kopitar, Gaborik each participated in the Kings morning skate but were held out of line rushes.
The Penguins defense has another unique challenge in defending the Kings top line of Tyler Toffoli, Jeff Carter and Tanner Pearson.
All three players are 6-foot-1 or bigger and possess great size and speed. How the Penguins defend Toffoli-Carter-Pearson down low will be a key area to watch tonight.
Toffoli-Carter-Pearson have combined for 17 goals and 34 points on the season. At even strength, the three have combined for 11 goals and a +34 rating.
“We have a set plan for that line,” Mike Johnston said. “With Pearson, Toffoli and Carter, there’s a certain way you’re going to have to play them to be successful. We’ve talked about that with our guys this morning.”
The Penguins have leaned on Olli Maatta – Kris Letang as their top pairing over the course of the last 5-6 games but the matchup against the Devils Jaromir Jagr saw Johnston go in the direction of Rob Scuderi mid-way through the game because of Jagr’s ability to possess the puck down low.
However, Scuderi’s no match for the speed of the Kings top line.
— Sidney Crosby is looking for the Penguins to develop what the Kings have — They know what it takes to win — “This is a team that’s proved they know what it takes to win. We want to go out there and prove that we can do the same,” Crosby said.
— The Penguins top line vs Drew Doughty will be a great matchup to watch tonight. The disappointing part is no Anze Kopitar, the NHL’s premier two-way centerman in the game. As great as the Kings are defensively, 1.67 GA/G, they are giving up nearly 35 shots per game and have two slot footed defenseman in their second and third pairs in Robyn Regehr and Matt Greene. The Malkin line could be a key tonight.
— Jayson Megna won’t play tonight but will stay with the team for at least the next couple games. Beau Bennett remains about 10-14 days away and the Penguins are only carrying 12 forwards.
“Reports are very good,” Johnston said of Megna. “He carries some speed, he can play with some skill. Has a little bit of physical play. Not a big guy but finishes his checks…. Megs has been very good for them down there.”
— Kris Letang has no even strength points through eight games. “For a guy like Kris, really want him jumping up in the play, be active,” Johnston said. Despite the lack of offensive production 5 v 5 from Letang, Johnston has been impressed with Letang’s defensive play. “I like his defensive play. He’s a really good defenseman in his own zone.”
Tanner Pearson – Jeff Carter – Tyler Toffoli
Dwight King – Mike Richards – Dustin Brown
Kyle Clifford – Jarret Stoll – Jason Williams
David Van der Gulik – Andy Andreoff – Jordan Nolan
Jake Muzzin – Drew Doughty
Robyn Regehr – Alec Martinez
Brayden McNabb – Andy Greene
Chris Kunitz – Sidney Crosby – Patric Hornqvist
Pascal Dupuis – Evgeni Malkin – Blake Comeau
Nick Spaling – Brandon Sutter – Steve Downie
Zach Sill – Marcel Goc – Craig Adams
Olli Maatta – Kris Letang
Christian Ehrhoff – Paul Martin
Rob Scuderi – Simon Despres
Marc Andre Fleury