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Pregame: Rangers Vs. Kings

This should be a good one.

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Kings vs Rangers coverage | Jewels From The Crown

With a victory or a loss in the shootout or sudden death tonight the Rangers will hit the 100 point milestone on this unforgettable season, and they could do it with another ten games left to play. Wow. Honestly, that is reason enough to be excited about tonight's game... but it gets better. Tonight the Rangers will also be looking to win their second game in the two game season series against the Los Angeles Kings, and they'll be doing it on the Garden's ice. If the Rangers claim a regulation win tonight they will be doing a lot more than solidifying a beneficial match up for them in the 2015 Playoffs and increasing their chances of getting their hands on the President's Trophy, they also might be driving one of the first big nails into the coffin to end the Kings' season. Sure, it doesn't exactly make up for not winning the Stanley Cup a little under a year ago, but it's something, right?

Thanks to a huge 3 goal second period from 3 different Rangers that are either injured or no longer with the team, the Blueshirts beat the Kings 4-3 on January 8th, 2015 in the first regular meeting between these clubs in Los Angeles. The power play cashed in twice against Jonathan Quick and the Kings back in January and helped the Rangers find some belated revenge and confidence against the team that bested them in the Stanley Cup Final.

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Let's take a look at the Kings' expected lineup tonight because it should catch your attention as pretty bizarre.

Gaborik - Kopitar - Williams

King - Carter - Toffoli

Clifford - Richards - Lewis

Nolan - Shore - Brown

--

Muzzin - Doughty

Regehr - Sekera

Martinez - Greene

Source: leftwinglock.com

Kings' Captain Dustin Brown, the Western Conference's Ryan Callahan, on the fourth line? Mike Richards called back up from the Manchester Monarchs? Dwight King on the second line? Okay, what the hell is going on in Los Angeles?

The Kings currently trail the Calgary Flames by 2 points for third place in the Pacific Division and trail the Winnipeg Jets by 4 points for the last Wild Card spot in the Western Conference (they have one game in hand over both clubs) so they are far from dead in the water, but much like the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference, they are going to need to tap into some of that famous playoff magic a little earlier than they'd like just to ensure they get a chance to defend the Cup in the 2015 Playoffs.

Let's take a quick look at their top offensive producers and their basic stats on the season.

  • Anze Kopitar 15 G, 42 A
  • Jeff Carter 25 G, 28 A
  • Tyler Toffoli 21 G, 21 A

Just so we're all aware of what kind of season Dustin Brown is having, Kevin Klein has more points than Brown. For the record, Klein hasn't played since March 2nd and he plays defense and has very little offensive acumen to speak of. And we thought that Martin St. Louis was having a bad season? Yikes. Kopitar has been Kopitar, but some key stars and veterans have not been providing the team with as much offensive depth as they were expected to.

"Trust me, we're not [comfortable]," Williams said. "I would much rather be at 100 points by now.

"We're here because we put ourselves here. You can look at a bunch of reasons why: Overtime, shootouts, a lot of reasons why we are where we are, but that's the story." -NHL.com

So, what is Justin Williams (37 points on the season) talking about? The Kings have 14 overtime and shootout losses (they have a record of 2-7 in the skills competition) and are 12-9-14 in one goal games this season, which are games that the Kings of the past few seasons normally would do very well in thanks to having Jonathan Quick in net and guys like Kopitar and Doughty in the lineup. For whatever reason, it has been a different story for Los Angeles this season. Their inability to win close games and failure to pick up a second point when games aren't resolved in regulation have robbed the Kings of precious points far too many times this season. It is because of this that they find themselves fighting for their playoff lives and held out of the third place spot in the Pacific Division by a Mark Giordano-less Calgary Flames. Not good.

After tonight's game the Kings will finish out their March hockey with games against the Islanders, Wild, and Blackhawks, all of which are on the road. They are coming off of a 3-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils last night thanks to a huge game from Anze Kopitar, but they Kings know that the remainder of this road trip could make or break their season and decide if they will get a chance to defend their championship in the rapidly approaching playoffs. At the end of the day this game is just another two points that the Rangers can grab on this amazing run they've been on, but it might mean a lot more than that to a team that still remembers just how bitter defeat tasted at the hands of the Kings last Spring. Something tells me that this game probably won't be "just another regular season game". The Kings are playing playoff hockey right now out of necessity and the Rangers are going to have a chance to test themselves against one the league's very best days before Henrik Lundqvist returns to the ice for his first start since his vascular injury.

Let's go Rangers.