WHO: Los Angeles Kings (2-2) @ Edmonton Oilers (2-2)
WHAT: ROUND 1, MATCH 5 – PACIFIC DIVISION SEMI-FINALS
WHEN: Tuesday, April 25 at 6:30 p.m. PT
OR: Rogers Place – Edmonton, Alberta
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: FOX 11 Plus, KCOP Channel 13 (Local) / ESPN (National) – AUDIO – iHeart Radio – TWITTER: @DooleyLAK & @LAKings
TONIGHT’S MATCHUP: It’s a best-of-three! The Kings and Oilers return to action tonight for Game 5 in Edmonton, with the first to two wins moving forward.
FACE-TO-FACE: Forward Adrian Kempe brings a four-game point streak in this series to tonight’s action, extended by an assist in Game 4. With six points (2-4-6) in four games played, forward Anze Koptiar is tied for tenth in the NHL in scoring this playoffs. Defenseman Matt Roy scored his first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal on Sunday.
VITAL KINGS: The Kings held what appeared to be a full-team morning practice today in Edmonton after the group completed a very limited practice yesterday afternoon in El Segundo.
Goaltender Joonas Korpisalo is expected to start once again tonight, as he was the first goaltender after morning practice in Edmonton. Korpisalo has faced the heaviest playoff workload to date, with 158 shots against in four games, while his .948 5-on-5 save percentage ranks third in the playoffs among goaltenders. with at least three games played.
No direct indication of tonight’s lineup since morning skate, so Game 4 lines are embedded below –
This evening @LAKings Line races –
Byfield – Clog – Kempe
Fiala – Vilardi – Iafallo
Grundström – Copper – Anderson-Dolan
— Zach Dooley (@DooleyLAK) April 24, 2023
Kevin Fiala took his first skate of the morning in a full-contact jersey, as you’d expect after his 2023 playoff debut in Game 4. Blake Lizotte didn’t skate with the group this morning and won’t will not play tonight in Game 5, by Todd McLellan. If the Kings opt for additional changes, defensemen Tobias Bjornfot and Sean Walker, along with forwards Arthur Kaliyev, Alex Laferriere and Zack MacEwen are options to check in the roster.
VITAL OILERS: In Game 4, the Oilers missed three goals to win a playoff game for the first time since 1997, the fourth time they have done so in franchise history.
Goaltender Stuart Skinner will once again be in favor with the visitors tonight in Los Angeles. Skinner, who was retired after the first period of Game 4, is 1-2 in tonight’s action with an .881 save percentage and a 3.38 goals-against average.
From Daniel Nugent-Bowman of The Athletic, here’s how the Oilers lined up in Game 4 in Los Angeles –
Oilers lines and pairings ahead of Game 4 at LAK:
*Kane not on the ice but no placeholder on the line.
— Daniel Nugent-Bowman (@DNBsports) April 23, 2023
Oilers forward Evander Kane was off the ice for morning practice for the second straight game, but played in Game 4 under similar circumstances. Forward Leon Draisaitl has been on the ice for all 14 goals for his team in the first four games of the series, which is just a ridiculous stat. Since entering the league, no player has a better points-per-game pace (1.66) in the playoffs than Draisaitl.
The Fiala Factor
The roar of the crowd in Los Angeles as the scoreboard showed the number 22 in black running through the tunnel to take the ice for warm-ups spoke volumes.
The Kings had been without their most dynamic offensive player throughout the series…until Game 4. Kevin Fiala joined the roster and had two points in his hard-hitting playoff debut with the organization. Fiala’s importance to this group is evident through his own ability, certainly, but also through the depth he brings to the entire roster. Unlike most players of his caliber, Fiala essentially creates his own line, usually the third listed unit, giving the Kings three caliber lines of the top six on any given night. When everyone goes there, it creates matchup problems for any opponent, when you have to consider three score lines offensively.
“First, it gives you an emotional boost when you get one of your best players back from injury and he’s ready to play at a high level and he’s played at a high level, which kicks emotional thumbs up to the whole band,” Todd McLellan said. “Secondly, it takes a huge amount of skill level and creativity for our team. Thirdly, it has an effect on the opposition, now they have to think about him and what they do with him, how they deal with him with their pairs. or their lines or whatever. So that helped us in all areas.
On the first night, Fiala’s line with Gabe Vilardi and Alex Iafallo found themselves on the right side of scoring chances (11-9) and high danger chances (7-4) as they added that extra dimension to the Kings offensively. They also connected for the first goal of the game. Fiala was pretty much everything the Kings could have wanted in his opener because he made an impact on the game, as McLellan mentioned.
His teammates also noticed it.
The team knows how important Fiala is and there was noticeable excitement to bring him back into the fold. His game speaks for itself and everyone is happy to find him.
Adrian Kempe – He’s been unreal all year for us and obviously we missed him when he was out and we’re happy he’s back now and really contributed in his first game I think. Just to try and get his legs back in the game, he hasn’t played in a while but I think he was really good last game so hopefully he can keep it up.
Trevor Moore– It’s huge, I mean he obviously scores, but he just controls the game when he’s out there. He’s got the puck on his stick all the time, he’s on a rope and he’s a strong guy, you see him there and he hits guys. It’s just great to have him back.
Matt Roy– He really leads the team, he leads the attack. He’s an energetic guy and he can make plays when you think there’s no play to be made. He really gave us a lift and we are all happy to see him again.
Now they will need that level to be raised again, from Fiala and the whole team. Just finding him, however, is exciting for the group.
When that game happened last season – Game 5 in Edmonton – it happened to be the only game in the series that ended in overtime. Even so, overtime lasted just 72 seconds as Kempe drove the net with authority and sent the Kings home with a 3-2 series lead after a 5-4 win.
This series, while still tied after four games, has understandably been quite different. Three of the four games went to overtime and although Trevor Moore’s game-winning goal in Game 3 came early, none of the three games were as short as Game 5 last season. The three games combined for little more than a hockey period. in total, 22 minutes and 23 seconds of play.
This is one of the many differences in this series. In four games a season ago, when things were tied at two, the Oilers had scored 17 goals in the first three games, before a Los Angeles shutout in Game 4 took the score to 17-10 in favor of Edmonton. Even when the Kings were leading the series 3-2, the Oilers had scored six more goals. It has been as even as it gets from a goalscoring perspective in 2023, however, with just one empty-netter in Game 2 the difference between what would otherwise have been four one-goal games.
In overtime situations, the spectator always has the impression that the game is changing. Everything tightens up, even semi-risky games are put aside for the safe option and the whistles are swallowed. That’s the general consensus……but is that how it actually happens? The players at the heart of it give you their opinion –
Mikey Anderson– I don’t think it changes much. Obviously you want to play the same way. If you play to not give up a goal, you’re not going to produce much, so on the other hand, you’re not going to win the game. I think you’re trying to keep going the same way, obviously we like our game in the first one so I think you’re trying to come back to that to go through extra time the same way and see what happens.
Quinton Byfield– I think you’re trying to pretend it’s okay, I think the mentality is more just getting the puck to the net, getting behind them and letting them make the mistake. Make easy plays, get as many pucks to the net as possible, and hope a rebound comes your way.
The Kings have been on the safe side in two of three overtime tilts to date, though both wins have bucked what many were a trend as both goals came on the power play. The goal is to maintain the status quo in these situations, although, as McLellan adds, it’s not as simple as doing so because the game changes slightly.
“I think the easy answer is it really matters, but it’s not always that easy,” McLellan said. “There may be circumstances leading to overtime that you must overcome and there may be changes or adjustments that must occur, your time frame to do so is shorter, you don’t get the timeouts TV as you normally do in the first three periods The dynamics of the game change a bit, but there’s no reason not to be ready to play, you have a chance to win.
No guarantee we’ll see overtime again tonight, but there’s always a chance with how this series has gone so far.
Lastly, Insiders, I know it’s noted above, but a reminder that locally, tonight’s game will be available on Fox 11 Plus, KCOP Channel 13, as well as ESPN. If you’re looking for the regular local crew, press 13 on the remote. While recording Kings Keys this morning, it took me about 20 tries to say Fox 11 Plus, KCOP Channel 13 in one take, so please watch to justify my efforts.
Game 5, tonight at 6:30 p.m. PT! An exciting awaits us.