LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 26: Tyler Toffoli, drafted in the third round by the Los Angeles Kings poses for a portrait during day two of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft at Staples Center on June 26, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
The Los Angeles Kings will host the lowly Buffalo Sabres tonight at 10:30 PM Eastern Time and it will be televised on Fox Sports West. The Kings come in with a 9 and 6 record, while the Sabres boast the worst record in the league with only 7 points. The Kings will be the heavy favorites at home, but nothing is a guarantee as the Kings are coming off a loss to the Nashville Predators. The Kings will need to improve in certain areas to come away with the win and the Sabres will need to play at the top of their game if they hope to have any chance in this game.
Keys to the game:
The Kings must play better hockey and to do so they must first get Tyler Toffoli to mesh with his teammates. Toffoli was called up last Friday to replace the injured Jeff Carter and in his first action against the Predators he had 1 assist and a little less than 20 minutes of ice time. It was a good debut for Toffoli, but he must continue to improve and help this Kings team score more goals. This game versus the Sabres will be the perfect opportunity for Toffoli to make his presence known and maybe score his first goal.
Jonathan Quick and Anze Kopitar (Photo credit: bleacherreport.com)
The second key for LA is better puck handling as the Kings had 18 giveaways the last game and their sloppy play contributed to more penalties. It is not surprising that when the Kings keep their giveaways fewer than 10 they almost always win the game. It all starts from the back as Drew Doughty and Slava Voynov must improve the defensive play and get the attack started well from the back. The third key is to continue to get shots on the opposing team’s net. More shots will lead to more rebounds and consequently more goals. The Kings are currently ranked 18th in the league with 2.6 goals per game. The final key is starting out quickly and jumping on their opponents. It is easier to play with a lead then having to play from behind all game.
The key players in this game will first be the goaltenders. Ryan Miller comes off a game where he conceded 4 goals, but came up big in the overtime shootout to preserve the win for the Sabres. As for Jonathan Quick, he did not have a good game versus the Predators as he allowed 4 goals on only 17 shots. If Quick can keep the goals to under 2 the Kings will have a great chance to pull out the win. Also, keep an eye on the centerman for each team, Anze Kopitar for the Kings and Cody Hodgson for the Sabres. Kopitar needs to take on more of the scoring load with Jeff Carter out and also set up his teammates with chances to score. Cody Hodgson will have to do even more if the Sabres want to have a chance in this game, Hodgson leads his team in assists and goals. Hodgson will have to shoulder more of the offensive responsibility after winger Thomas Vanek was traded to the New York Islanders.
The Buffalo Sabres do have some talent on their team, but the ugly truth is that this team will probably finish last in the Eastern Conference. The Kings will be motivated to erase the bad taste from their loss against the Predators and will come out fast against the Sabres. LA will feed off its home crowd and put away the Sabres early and come out with a comfortable win of 4 to 1.