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Penguins at Kings Picks

By Adam Markowitz

After missing out on the playoffs in two of the past three seasons, the Los Angeles Kings are looking to get back to the postseason. The Kings have the best defense in the NHL and have rode that defense this year. However, that defense has had some major problems over the past four games, allowing four goals each game. That has led to four straight losses. Now, the Pittsburgh Penguins are coming to town, and the Kings better hope that defense is shored up.

Pittsburgh Penguins at Los Angeles Kings
Date and Time:Thursday, January 18, 2018, 10 p.m. ET
Location: Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
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Penguins at Kings TV Coverage: NBCSN

Pittsburgh has not fared well on the road this season. The Penguins have won just nine of their 23 road games and will be behind the eight ball in this one. Whereas the Kings get a few days of rest prior to this game, the Penguins play Anaheim on Wednesday night and will have to travel to face San Jose on Saturday.

The Penguins were a middling team for the first two months of the season, but they have turned it on in recent weeks just like they have in past years. They have won four straight coming into this one, thanks to an offense that has scored 19 goals in those four games.

Los Angeles is one of the rare teams that is better on the road than at home. The Kings have won just half of their home games this season and are 6-16 on the goal line in the Staples Center. During this recent poor stretch of play, the last three games have been at home.

Injuries to Watch

The Kings have been without Jeff Carter all season long. He has been sidelined with an ankle injury, but the team recently got good news as he has finally returned to the ice and is skating on his own.

Not having Carter hasn’t been easy, but this team has really struggled since defenseman Jake Muzzin went on IR with an upper-body injury. It’s no surprise that this team’s defensive collapse has happened with him out of the lineup. The Kings need to get him back soon.

Chad Ruhwedel and Bryan Rust have been on injured reserve with upper-body injuries since the tail end of December, and Carter Rowney was added to IR for that same reason a week later. Ruhwedel may be able to go, but Rust and Rowney will be out for a few weeks longer.

Pittsburgh got good news too when it was announced that Matt Murray would make the West Coast road trip with the team. Murray has been out for the last two games for personal reasons, and his status was up in the air for this trip.

Matchup to Watch

The league’s best power play will face off against the league’s best penalty kill in this one.

With so much talent, it’s no wonder that Pittsburgh has the most effective power play in the NHL. The Penguins have scored on 26.5 percent of their chances as teams eventually crack under the waves of pressure that they can bring. The big three of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Phil Kessel have starred on the man advantage with the trio combining for 25 goals.

Los Angeles has allowed a power play goal in two if its last three games without Muzzin available. Still this is the NHL’s top defense and is tops at killing off penalties too. The Kings have successfully killed off 87.1 percent of power plays this season. That has helped them keep winning in spite of a middling offense.

Penguins at Kings Free Picks

Not having Muzzin is huge for the Kings. However, Pittsburgh won’t be able to take advantage of his absence. This is no longer a young team and road games in back-to-back nights take a toll. Anaheim plays a particularly physical brand of hockey, so Pittsburgh will be bruised heading into this one. That’s all the advantage LA needs.

Penguins at Kings Pick: Back the Kings at home
Penguins at Kings Score Prediction: Kings2 – Penguins 1