The Los Angeles Kings are on a rare winning streak, as they look for six straight wins on Monday night at the Staples Center. It’s who they’ve been beating that has been the most impressive part about this run for the Kings. They have earned wins against the Penguins, Maple Leafs, Devils, Golden Knights, and Wild. Besides the Devils, the other four teams are in contention for the playoffs.
Where was that from the Kings earlier in the season? Despite selling at the trade deadline, the Kings have been playing better hockey of late. Perhaps it’s a message that has resonated strongly throughout the Kings’ locker room. When guys are getting traded away, the guys that are still on the team know they have to step it up.
The Kings wish they could have dumped two or three more contracts on another team, but nobody wants expensive veterans who are over the hill at this point. Jeff Carter is injured and when he’s been available, Carter has looked disinterested in playing. Nobody was going to do the Kings a favour and take his bloated contract off their books.
In any event, the guys that are there on the ice now and showing up and competing recently. That’s all they can expect at this point. Baby steps into next season is the best-case scenario for the Kings, but I wouldn’t expect a monumental improvement in 2020-21. They likely won’t be the comeback team of the year, as the rebuilding phase will be well underway then.
The Kings welcome an Avalanche squad who are playing on a back-to-back following a stop in San Jose. The Avalanche will head home after their meeting against the Kings tonight. Last night against the Sharks, the offence had a nice night at the offence, as they beat Martin Jones for 4 goals on 24 shots.
With Francouz playing in San Jose on Sunday, we might see Michael Hunchinson in goal for the Avalanche tonight. The former Maple Leaf was claimed off waiver by the Avalanche and has made one start with his new team. One good start against a team like the Red Wings, the worst offence in the NHL, isn’t going to impress anyone. We’ll see if he can follow it up with another solid showing. Head below for our free Avalanche vs. Kings pick.
Colorado Avalanche vs. L.A. Kings Betting Odds:
Avalanche vs. Kings Prediction:
Philipp Grubauer continues to be on the mend, so the Avalanche needed to figure something out to back up Francouz. Hutchinson was really the only option on waivers for the Avalanche and here he is after a terrible year in Toronto. Fortunately for the Avalanche, Grubauer is nearing a return in mid-March. They can then go back to the goaltending tandem of Grubauer and Francouz. Francouz has been getting a heavy workload without a solid No. 2 for the Avalanche. He will likely get a break in Los Angeles, but that means Hutchinson will then be in the crease.
Hutchinson was sharp in a 2-1 win against the Red Wings on March 2. However, I wouldn’t get too excited over one single game. He had three solid outings with the Maple Leafs, and immediately after regressed in his next showing. That included a start against the Red Wings in which he allowed a goal on 30 shots. In his next start, Hutchinson allowed 4 goals against the Devils.
He also shutout the Islanders, but allowed 3 goals right after, and against the Senators he was good with 1 goal allowed on 25 shots. However, you guessed it, Hutchinson struggled in his next showing, allowing 3 goals on only 13 shots in relief work. He owns a 3.47 GAA and 0.88 save percentage on the season. He’s been much worse on the road, with a 4.22 GAA and 0.869 save percentage. This chance in Colorado with the Avalanche might be his last opportunity to stick around in the NHL. I don’t know who would want him next season if his struggles continue in March.
Cale Makar will be out once again on Monday. Along with Quinn Hughes, Makar is the best rookie defenceman in the NHL and his absence on the blueline has been felt recently. He hasn’t played since February 29 against the Predators. The Avalanche have allowed at least 3 goals in regulation in three out of the four games he hasn’t been active in since then. The only game the defence looked good in was against the lowly Red Wings. Nikita Zadarov got scratched the last two games because of poor play but the issue goes beyond him, I think.
With Hutchinson in net, the Kings should be able to generate goals at the Staples Center on Monday night. The offence has played reasonably well of late, with nearly 3 goals per game in their last ten games. While the defence hasn’t been superb with Makar out of the lineup for the Avs, the offence has shouldered the load. They’ve scored at least 3 goals in their last three games, as they slowly wake up following a dry spell offensively. Head coach Jared Bednar is likely going to recognize that they need to be aggressive offensively if Hutchinson does in fact get the starting nod. We should see 6 or 7 goals here to get OVER the total in LA.