Jan 25, 2014; Dallas, TX, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin (71) yells at the referees during the third period against the Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center. The Stars shut out the Penguins 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Preview: Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Los Angeles Kings


 

Thursday night will be a huge test for the Pittsburgh Penguins, as they get set to lace up the skates against the Los Angeles Kings.

A battle between two teams who have raised the Stanley Cup over the past five years, both clubs best be on their A game, because each of their lineups’ can make you pay if multiple mistakes are made.

Both of them are similar, in terms of how they’re built, so ultimately, it’s going to come down to who makes less errors. Execution will be the determining factor in who takes home the victory tonight.

A few notes to pass along:

Kings

- The Kings come into tonight’s game having lost six of their last seven contests, in which they only mustered nine goals, and were shutout twice. Maybe even more surprising, is that they have potted just three tallies in their last four games – which could either be a good thing for Pittsburgh, or it might be scary, suggesting they will be hungry as ever tonight.

- Forward Anze Kopitar, the Kings’ leading scorer, has just three points in his last six games. When Kopitar lights the lamp, the Kings’ have gone 10-3-0, so it’s safe to say when he scores, they have a good chance of winning. His five game-winning-goals are tied for first on the team with forward Tyler Toffoli.

- Forward Jeff Carter leads the team in goals, but has failed to score since Jan. 21. The Pens’ remember when he was playing for the Philadelphia Flyers, and know that he’s a guy who can bury the biscuit. He’s also prone to tally goals in bunches, so Pittsburgh needs to keep him in check by staying aware of where he’s at on the ice – especially if he does score.

- One of the team’s coldest players is forward Dustin Brown. Brown, who scored 29 points (18G, 11) in 46 games last season, has all but 16 (10G, 6A) through 54 contests this campaign. Unable to register a single point in the past eight games, Brown just has five points (3G, 2A) over the last 20 outings. However, when Brown does post a point, their team is an amazing 11-2-1.

- Los Angeles is 13-5-3 against Eastern Conference’ teams this season.

Penguins

- The Pens’ have won the last two games when these two have met, and the most recent matchup was during the 2011-12 campaign, in which Pittsburgh topped them 3-2 in a shootout. Pittsburgh comes into tonight’s game having gone 5-2-0 over their last seven contests, and racked-up 21 goals in the process. These two teams have only played each other three times over the past five seasons, and the Pens’ hold the edge with a 2-1-0 record.

- Pens’ captain Sidney Crosby, who leads the NHL in scoring with 74 points (27G, 47A), has been kept off the stat-sheet in three of the last seven games, and two of those contests were against Western Conference’ teams. Crosby has collected a point in all but 10 games this season, and when he fails to do so, Pittsburgh’ boasts a 2-9-0 record – which is astonishing.

- Forward Evgeni Malkin has not posted-a-point in the last two outings, but has recorded seven (5G, 2A) in four career meetings with Los Angeles. Over the last 11 games, Malkin has collected 13 points, and the Pens’ record when he scores a goal is 12-1-0 – with their last loss coming on Oct. 11.

- Brandon Sutter, who only has 18 points (9G, 9A) in 53 contests this season, is pretty cold offensively at the moment. Compiling just three points (1G, 2A) over the last 16 games, Sutter is important to the team’s outcome, because when he registers a point, the Pens’ have a record of 16-1-0. That, and the fact he’s the best scoring threat on the bottom two-lines Pittsburgh’s got. So he needs to be the catalyst for their secondary scoring.

- Pittsburgh is 10-2-1 against the Western Conference this season.

Both squads have played exceptionally well against opposing conference teams, so I’m anticipating this matchup being a dogfight till the end. The Kings’ play a tremendous two-way game, and although Pittsburgh has steady defense, Los Angeles is slightly better.

However, the Pens’ offense is clearly more dominant than the Kings. Of course, that’s going to happen when you own two of the best forwards in the game.

All-in-all, this matchup is definitely something to watch tonight. So far, Pittsburgh has faired well against the Western Conference’s top teams – with exception to Colorado and St. Louis.

They will have to match Los Angeles’ desperation, considering the Kings are itching for a win to spell their recent losing habits. The Pens’ own a record of 15-11-2 on the road this season, so winning tonight will certainly boost their confidence.

The game can be seen on the ROOT Network, and is set to start at 10:30 p.m.

Tags: Pittsburgh Penguins