The Los Angeles Kings are expected to have Anze Kopitar back in the line-up tonight against an energized Carolina Hurricanes squad, who earned their first win of the season last night. Who will take Sunday afternoon's match-up?
Well, Saturday night's match-up prediction didn't pan out as written. Some aspects were predicted correctly. As expected, a lot of goals were scored, but Steven Stamkos and Alex Ovechkin did not light the red lamp, although they did have an assist each. Ryan Callahan did provide a spark in his return to the Lightning line-up with a first period goal, so there's that. Let's give Stamkos the win simply because his team walked away victorious.
Sunday, the NHL has seven games games scheduled, with two late afternoon affairs, one of which is a 5 p.m. contest between the Carolina Hurricanes, who are coming off their first win of the season, and the Los Angeles Kings who are winless on their current road trip.
The Kings have been without centre Anze Kopitar, who has been out of action with an upper body injury, but the 27-year old expects to return tonight, “"I'm planning on it unless there is something really drastic that happens," he told the NHL after practice Saturday. "But I don't think I'm going to be doing anything this afternoon. Hopefully it stays that way and hopefully I feel like that [Sunday]."
The return of Kopitar will be a major addition to a Kings team that has not looked good lately. After a heart-breaking 3-2 overtime loss to the Flyers Tuesday, the Kings were shutout by the Penguins and dismantled by the Red Wings. With the exception of Tyler Toffoli, Jeff Carter and Tanner Pearson, the scoring hasn't been there for the Kings, who currently rank 25th in the NHL in goals per game, so Kopitar will be welcomed back with open arms.
The Hurricanes looked like a completely different team in their win over Arizona last night. They looked fresh, worked hard and took home a team win backed by a beautiful shutout performance from Cam Ward. Alexander Semin was a healthy scratch which lead to speculation that not having him in the line-up was a good thing for Carolina. Tonight, the Canes will see if the win was just a stroke of good luck, or if they've figured things out.
Prediction: Kopitar makes his return to the Kings' line-up; doesn't have an effect on the scoreboard, but gives his team the positive mental boost they need as the team looks energized. Hurricanes' forward Elias Lindholm found his scoring touch on Saturday and it will continue on Sunday, as the centre nets another goal. It'll be a lower scoring affair, in the 2-1 range, but the contest will be upbeat with some nice defensive work. Going out on a limb here and saying Carolina walks away victorious for their second win of the season and Lindholm's lone goal is the game-winner.