Before 2012, the Devils and their fans rarely gave a passing thought to the Los Angeles Kings. After a face off in the Stanley Cup final, where the Devils came out on the losing side, things have changed. The Devils may only play the Kings twice a year, but it has become an occasion for Devils’ fans to mark on their calendar.
Tonight, they will fly out to bright lights of Hollywood for the opening of their west coast road trip against Staples Center royalty. The Devils find themselves in the Eastern Conference basement and will square up against one of the only teams with a worse record than them who has already seen a string of injuries and a coaching change this season.
Get your coffee ready, because there’s gonna be some late night hockey in the city of angels.
Players to Watch:
Taylor Hall: As the best player on the Devil’s roster, watching Taylor Hall is nothing new. What was new was watching Hall get benched in an embarrassing home loss to the Lightning last game. While the benching may have been temporary during the closing minutes of the second, Hall took it as a sign he has to step up his game and he hasn’t been playing up to par as the NHL’s MVP.
Anze Kopitar: He was one of the thorns in the Devils side during the 2012 Stanley Cup loss. Since then, he has earned the captaincy of the Los Angeles Kings and a huge new contract to match his talent. He also leads a struggling Kings squad with 18 points. Not bad, but he is a first line center on a team that’s played 28 games. Usually, you want more out of your $10-million-dollar man.
Keith Kinkaid: Remember when Kinkaid put together a flash in the pan streak to end the 2017-18 season and propel the Devils to the playoffs? Remember when people looked at that 20 or so sampling of games and said that Kinkaid was the Devils true number one goalie? Remember the beginning of this season when all those things looked to continue? Yeah, I fantasize about the good old days, too.
Keys to Victory:
Road Game: You don’t need me to remind you the Devils have been a sad team to watch on the road, and they’ll be facing the Kings in the home kingdom of relocated NFL teams, movie studios and In ‘N’ Out Burger. That might not be a bad thing, though. Ever since the Stanley Cup loss in 2012, the land of Luc Robitaille and Jonathan Quick has been kind to the Devils. Aside from the 2015-16 season, the Devils have won all their road games at Staples Center since the finals loss in Game 6.
Zone Time: Absolutely nothing was good about the Devils loss to Tampa Bay. Okay, maybe Yakovlev’s first goal was exciting, but that was the only semi-positive thing to come out of an effortless loss. Instead of what worked, let’s look at what didn’t work, and one of the worst states from that game was the percentage of time the Lightning spent in the Devil’s zone as opposed to the other way around. Zone time may not always lead to scoring, but it’s a good start.
Jonathan Quick: The man who single handedly carried the Kings to the 2012 Stanley Cup as an 8th seed came up from injury a few nights ago. Instead of being shaken, he earned his 50th career shutout. With the time off in between the Kings last game and the tilt against the Devils, all signs point to him starting. Quick is still an outstanding goaltender, but if the Devils can break the Conn Smythe trophy winning brick wall, then half the work needed to beat the Kings will be done.
New Jersey Devils:
Los Angeles Kings
Where To Watch:
10:30 Eastern on MSG+
Low scoring battle against two teams that can’t score. 2-0 Devils. They have to win eventually, right?