Devils Gameday Preview: Los Angeles Kings

The New Jersey Devils are continuing their California road trip tonight as they face the Los Angeles Kings. They are coming off of a 4-0 loss at the hands of the Anaheim Ducks. Jack Hughes and Miles Wood remain on injured reserve, while Dougie Hamilton is listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury.

The last time these two teams met at Staples Center was Feb. 29, 2020. Overtime was required and the Kings won the game by a score of 2-1 after Adrian Kempe got the puck past MacKenzie Blackwood with three minutes left in overtime. Jesper Bratt scored the lone goal for New Jersey in the defeat.

3 Storylines: Los Angeles Kings (4-5-1)

Can The Kings Extend their Winning Streak

The Kings have won their last three games against the Montreal Canadiens, Buffalo Sabres and St. Louis Blues. Head coach Todd McLellan will look to extend his team’s streak to four on Friday night. The Kings are without players due to injury and lost both Viktor Arvidsson and Gabe Vilardi who were placed on Covid-19 protocol, but that hasn’t affected them on the scoreboard.

Andreas Athanasiou Returns

Looking to make his season debut tonight is 27-year-old Andreas Athanasiou. He has been on injured reserve after suffering an upper-body injury during training camp. Last season he appeared in 47 games finishing with 10 goals and 23 points.

Related: Kings News & Rumors: Defenseman Trade Targets, Athanasiou & More

“That is the plan, is to get Athanasiou in the game,” McLellan said to the media. “I fully expect him to play, he’s ready. There is no exhibition season for him, you get right into it, but he did that last year, so he can do it again this year.”

Struggling Power Play

Looks like there is something both these teams have in common. The Kings are currently without defensemen Drew Doughty and Sean Walker. Doughty quarterbacked the first power-play unit, while Walker was used on the second unit.

Drew Doughty (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

During their last game, the Kings were 0-4 with the man advantage. Both 23-year-old Kale Clague and 26-year-old Matt Roy were the defensemen used on the power play against the Blues. It’s worth noting the Blues tied the game to force overtime on a short-handed goal scored by Torey Krug late in the third period.

3 Storylines: New Jersey Devils (4-3-1)

Alexander Holtz Makes His NHL Debut

What do you do when your team was shut out in their prior game and need offensive power? You call up the 19-year-old with five goals in four games. It is the moment every Devils fan has been waiting for – Alexander Holtz got called up to the NHL.

“It was the coach down there Kevin Dineen,” said Holtz when asked who told him about the call up. “He called me and asked if I have ever been to Disneyland. I told him no, and he told me I was going here.”

Holtz earned two goals and two assists during preseason before being assigned to the Utica Comets. The decision for him to begin the season in the American Hockey League (AHL) was controversial among fans who thought he should have been on the opening night roster along with fellow rookie Dawson Mercer. Coach Lindy Ruff confirmed he will be looking to use Holtz on the power play if given the opportunity.

Who Will Step Up in the Absence of Dougie Hamilton?

During Tuesday’s matchup against the Anaheim Ducks, Dougie Hamilton left the game with a lower-body injury. Yesterday head coach Lindy Ruff confirmed that Hamilton will not play against the Kings.

This leaves fans questioning who will be the player to step up on the Devils’ blue line. The obvious choice is P.K. Subban who was used in Dougie’s role as the quarterback on the first power play during practice. Subban has 21 shots on the season, which is third on the team behind Hamilton and Nico Hischier.

“Without Dougie (Hamilton) there we have no threat up top to shoot,” said coach Ruff to media about the power play. “We are focusing on what P.K. (Subban) can bring and what he has brought.”

Special Teams

The spotlight is on the Devils’ special teams, and not for a good reason. Last game, the power play went 0-5 and if matters couldn’t get worse, the Anaheim Ducks’ fourth goal of the game was scored short-handed. The Devils are without two very important players in Hamilton and Jack Hughes but need to find a way to quickly fix their game during the man advantage. The Ducks went 2-7 on their power play.

Related: Devils’ Power Play Struggles Are Nothing New

“It’s frustrating. The power play needs to make a difference,” captain Nico Hischier said after the Devils’ last game. “Even just getting momentum back. That’s not what we’re doing right now. We just have to put pucks on net and get one dirty one to get the confidence back. Obviously, we have to get better. We don’t have any confidence. We have to simplify it. It’s not good enough. It’s that simple.”

Nico Hischier New Jersey Devils
Nico Hischier, New Jersey Devils (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

At yesterday’s practice, the first power-play unit consisted of Subban, Holtz, Mercer, Pavel Zacha and Hischier. The coaching staff used Ty Smith, Damon Severson and Jesper Bratt in the second unit. The Devils will look to avoid another loss due to poor special team’s play.

Players to Watch

New Jersey Devils: Alexander Holtz

Fans have anxiously been waiting for Holtz to be called up. All eyes will be on him to see if he can easily transition from the AHL to NHL. It has been speculated he will be part of the team’s top-six forward group being on a line with either Hischier or Mercer.

Los Angeles Kings: Anze Kopitar

The Captain of the Kings has been on a tear so far this season. He has 13 points in 10 games so far, which is the eighth-best in the league. The 6-foot-4 forward already has a hat trick and is due to get on the scoreboard after not registering a point in his team’s last game.

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