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Flames-Kings game preview: Four points on the line in L.A.

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For added suspense, remember that the NHL tends to schedule plenty of divisional games at the end of the regular season.

Seven of the Calgary Flames’ remaining 14 games (all against Western Conference teams) are against Pacific Division rivals, including the next six in a row and starting tonight in Los Angeles.(8:30 p.m., 📺: Sportsnet, 👂: Sportsnet 960)

For the Flames…

Re-build that buffer

Unless your favourite Western Conference team’s name rhymes with Java Ranch, Mild, Snackin’ or Peyote, you’ll be checking on a nightly basis from now until the end of the month.

Anything is possible, of course. The Colorado Avalanche, who sit atop the league standings with 104 points, haven’t yet technically clinched a playoff berth. Neither have the Minnesota Wild, who sit second in the Central Division with 91 points, five points ahead of the third-place St. Louis Blues.

The Seattle Kraken and the Arizona Coyotes have been officially eliminated.

Tonight’s game in Los Angeles is one of those four-pointers between division rivals. If the Flames win it in regulation, that’ll put them five points ahead of the second-place Kings in the Pacific race. If the Flames lose it in 60, the Kings are just one point behind for first place, but Calgary does have three games in hand over L.A.


Western Conference standings watch


Tighten up defensively

Milan Lucic summed it up best following Saturday night’s loss to the Blues, right off the hop in the post-game media conference, referencing losing coverage and giving up too many chances to the visitors in the slot.

“Coverage that we’ve been good at all year, we’ve just got to clean it up,” said Lucic, who fired four shots on Blues goalie Ville Husso over his 11:41 in ice time.

“If you get frustrated and try to do too much, and try to do someone else’s job, that’s when you get away from your game plan and away from your identity.”

Pray to the puck-luck gods

Husso will undoubtedly get a big raise on the US$950,000 he is getting paid this season with the Blues. The slated-to-be-UFA goalie snuffed plenty a Grade-A Flames scoring chance, making 39 saves Saturday night in the Blues’ win.

The Flames outshot (43 vs. 23 for StL) and outchanced the visitors, with 58.82% of the game’s scoring chances and 68% of the high-danger variety, according to Natural Stat Trick.

The Flames poured almost double the shots the Blues did on April 2. Look at all those chances in the slot in front of St. Louis goalie Ville Husso 😲


For the Kings…

(Same division-rival, four-point-game logic applies to the Kings, of course.)

Get the saves

The Kings have had pedestrian goaltending this season, but veteran Jonathan Quick and future No. 1 Cal Petersen have been stopping more pucks than usual lately.

Petersen (20-11-1 • 2.68 • .901) supplied two strong outings in net for the Kings in their most-recent two wins: 26 saves and a .926 save percentage in Thursday’s 3-2 shootout victory over the Flames, and 25/.929 in Saturday’s 3-2 decision over the Winnipeg Jets.

Quick (17-12-9 • 2.66 • .909) stopped 30 shots and had a .909 sv% in the Kings’ 3-2 shootout loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday.

Keep up the intensity

In the three games since last Monday’s 6-1 home loss to the expansion Seattle Kraken, the Kings have played their opponents with more urgency and reaped five of a possible six points out of a crucial, tough three-game Western Canada road trip.

Each game was decided by one goal. The Flames, the Oilers and the Jets are all in the playoff hunt, the latter team desperate to claw its way into the Top 8.

Indeed, that style of hockey for those who have a chance to make it to the post-season is, in Kings coach Todd McLellan’s words following their loss last week to the Oilers, “going to be that way from now until the end of the season.”

That style includes getting goals from every corner of the lineup — a feature of their recent roadie — as well as tighter defence (sounds familiar if you read the above Flames points, eh?)

“(The Kings) are a team that they don’t give up much anywhere on the ice, they don’t give up much around the net,” Jets interim head coach Dave Lowry said after Saturday’s contest. “We got our chances. Their goalie played well … They did a good job of defending, goalie made key saves.”


Projected lineups

Flames

Forward

Gaudreau • Lindholm • Tkachuk
Mangiapane • Backlund • Toffoli
Dube • Jarnkrok • Coleman
Lucic • Carpenter • Lewis

Defence

Hanifin • Andresson
Stone • Tanev
Zadorov • Gudbranson

Goal

Markstrom • Vladar

Kings

Forward

Iafallo • Kopitar • Kempe
Moore • Danault • Arvidsson
Vilardi • Byfield • Kupari
Grundstrom • Andersson • Kaliyev

Defence

Bjornfot • Durzi
Maatta • Spence
Edler • Stecher

Goal

Petersen • Quick


Roster notes

  • The Flames this morning called up defenceman Juuso Valimaki and forward Adam Ruzicka from AHL Stockton. Forward Brett Ritchie did not make the trip to L.A. with the team after he was hurt in Saturday’s loss to the Blues. The 28-year-old had an MRI on Sunday but the team has yet to see the results.
  • The team summoned defenceman Connor Mackey from Stockton on Saturday in the wake of news that blueliner Oliver Kylington was listed day-to-day with an upper-body injury and Sean Monahan was finished for the season with a hip injury.
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