The Kings’ Third and Fourth Line Centers Down the Stretch

Since the recall of center Nic Dowd on March 22, the Kings and head coach Darryl Sutter have utilized three different players for the third and fourth line center position. Vincent Lecavalier and Nick Shore are the other two centers that have seem themselves in and out of the lineup.

Prior to the start of the 2015-16 season, a question surrounding the Los Angeles Kings was whether the subtractions of centers like Mike Richards and Jarret Stoll over the offseason would have a negative impact on a team that had positioned themselves so well down the middle for the past few seasons. The Kings’ roster does have other players that could have filled the voids like centers Trevor Lewis and Andy Andreoff, however those players currently and primarily have played on the wings this season.

With the trade of Lecavalier (in addition to defenseman Luke Schenn) from the Philadelphia Flyers in January, the progress and development of Shore and the recall of Dowd, the Kings have once again solidified the position they lost with the departure of key centers last summer.

Vincent Lecavalier as a King

Lecavalier began his career playing with the Tampa Bay Lightning and won a Stanley Cup with the team in 2004. In 2008, he signed an 11-year deal worth $85 million that would ensure him being a Lightning for the remainder of his career. This was not the case as he was bought out by Tampa Bay five years later.

As a free agent in the summer of 2013, Lecavalier signed a five-year deal with the Philadelphia Flyers that would position him behind Claude Giroux as a second line center. Lecavalier’s point production decreased year-after-year as a Flyer, he was a healthy scratch (and became so numerous times) for the first time in his career and had played just seven games in the 2015-16 season up until January.

(Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)
(Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)

All of that was until the trade with the Los Angeles Kings at the beginning of the year. Post trade, Lecavalier has 10 goals and 17 points in 36 games played with the Kings. Six of Lecavalier’s 10 goals have been scored on the power play with him centering the second unit and has a stabilized faceoff winning percentage above 50 percent at 51.39 according to war-on-ice. He has not only given the Kings more size and experience at the center position, but gives head coach Darryl Sutter options when configuring line ups like when Jeff Carter was moved to play wing alongside Anze Kopitar and Lecavalier slotted in at the second line center position.

Lecavalier has played in all but one game with the Kings as he sat out against the Edmonton Oilers on March 26 with an undisclosed ailment. In that game, centers Shore and Dowd would rear the center positions behind Kopitar and Carter.

Nicholas Shore and Nic Dowd

In the four games the Kings have played since Dowd was recalled, Shore has played in just two of those games. And while Shore had been a healthy scratch this season before and was so against the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday, he has still played 67 games with the Kings scoring three goals and 10 points. Like Lecavalier, Shore is above 50 percent when it comes to a stabilized faceoff winning percentage and has a 63.47 Corsi for per 60 minutes total at 5v5 even strength.

While Dowd has played only four games in the NHL and has been held scoreless, he has had influence in other facets of the game in his limited NHL experience. According to war-on-ice, Dowd has a Corsi For per 60 minutes of 85.99 at even strength and 55.17 stabilized winning faceoff percentage.

(Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports)
(Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports)

Shore signed a two-year contract with the Kings on July 16, 2015 with annual average salary of $600,000 according to CapFriendly and Dowd signed a one-year deal that same day worth an AAV of $600,000 as well.

The Kings remain atop of the Pacific Division with just a one-point lead over the Anaheim Ducks with 95 points. They next play the Calgary Flames on Thursday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.