The NHL has about half the teams playing on Thursday night. Eight games are on the board for January 3. One of the games on Thursday night will be between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Los Angeles Kings. Tampa Bay has jumped out to a strong start, while the Kings have not been doing great this season. This game will be on at 10:30 PM Eastern time on ESPN+.
Tampa Bay has started out the season with a record of 31-7-2, which is good enough to be in the top spot of the NHL. The Lightning have won six games in a row and fourteen of their last fifteen games. Tampa Bay will look to keep the winning streak alive against a struggling Los Angeles team on Thursday night.
The Kings have gone 16-22-3 to open up the new season. Los Angeles is sitting in the last place of the Pacific Division and only above the St. Louis Blues and the Ottawa Senators in the entire NHL standings. The Kings are coming off a loss to the Vegas Golden Knights. Los Angeles has won five of their last seven games though. The Kings will look to continue the recent winning with an upset on the league-leading Tampa Bay Lightning.
Thursday night’s matchup will be the first game between the Lightning and the Kings. Tampa Bay and Los Angeles will meet one more time on February 25. These two teams have been playing well recently, but the Lightning are clearly the better team. Los Angeles will look for their home ice to help lead them to an upset over Tampa Bay.
Last Season’s Matchups
The Lightning and the Kings met up twice last season. The first game of the season series was hosted by Los Angeles. Oscar Fantenberg and Tyler Toffoli each scored once for the Kings, but it was not enough. Nikita Kucherov had a goal and two assists, while Victor Hedman, Alex Killorn and Steven Stamkos each had a goal and an assist. Peter Budaj stopped 22 of 24 shots in route to a 5-2 win for Tampa Bay.
The final game of the season series shifted to Tampa Bay. The Kings got decent production from Andy Andreoff and Nick Shore, who both had two assists. Steven Stamkos had a goal and an assist, while Alex Killorn, Nikita Kucherov, and Cedric Paquette each scored a goal. Andrei Vasilevskiy turned away 44 shots on 47 shots on goal. The Kings made it a closer game, but the Lightning finished with a 4-3 win.
Los Angeles has lost four games in a row to the Lightning in the last two full seasons. The Kings came close on the road last season, but ultimately fell short. Los Angeles missed out on the playoffs, while Tampa Bay went on to make a strong playoff run to the Conference Finals. The Kings are playing well right now, but have struggled this season overall. Los Angeles will look for that momentum to carry them to a win.
The Lightning have found a lot of success on special teams this season. Tampa Bay has scored on 29.2 percent of their power play chances. The Lightning’s penalty kill has been almost as strong. Tampa Bay’s penalty kill has killed off 83 percent of their opponent’s power-play opportunities. The Lightning have the league’s best power play and rank top ten in penalty kill, which has helped lead them this season.
Los Angeles has been on the opposite side of the spectrum when it comes to special teams. The Kings have scored on 75.8 percent of their power play opportunities. Los Angeles’ penalty kill has stopped the opposing team on 75.8 percent of their power play chances. The Kings will need a better night if they want to pull off the upset at home.
Tampa Bay has been much better this season on special teams. The Kings have been in the bottom ten in both power play and penalty kill, while the Lightning are top ten in both. Los Angeles will need to avoid taking penalties if they want the win. The Kings take less than the league average of penalties per game, which could work in their favor.
I expect Andrei Vasilevskiy to start in net for the Lightning. Vasilevskiy has gone 15-3-2 in his starts this season, which is ridiculously good. He has a save percentage of .923 and a 2.58 GAA this season. Vasilevskiy has a strong defense in front of him, but he has been making unreal saves all season. He finished with a Vezina Trophy nomination last season and I believe he will earn another nod this season.
Jonathan Quick is expected to get the start for Los Angeles on Thursday night. Quick has posted a 6-9-2 record in his 17 starts this season. He has put up a save percentage of .904 and a GAA of 2.87 this season. In his last five games played though, he has a .936 save percentage. Quick will look to continue that success to help give the Kings a chance to pull off the upset.
Los Angeles has picked up their play recently and I believe that this gives them a chance to pull off the upset. The Lightning have a good chance to dominate using their special teams, but if the Kings can avoid taking dumb penalties it will limit Tampa Bay’s strongest play. Los Angeles will look to ride Quick’s strong play to an upset.
BetOnline has the Lightning listed as a -182 against the money line. This implies that Tampa Bay will win this game 64.5 percent of the time. I believe that the Lightning should be favored, but with how the Kings have been playing recently, I believe there is a lot of value there. Tampa Bay is on a long winning streak, which will eventually come to an end. I believe that end comes on Thursday night.