The LA Kings lines are all shook up from last spring’s playoff run heading into tonights game against the St. Louis Blues on the road. The defensive pairings are an unfortunate mismatch. The Kings were fortunate enough last year, especially during the playoff run, that their defensive pairings were in tact from start to finish. Once Slava Voynov got added to the mix midseason, the Kings never had to change anything, other than continue to bring Voynov up to speed.
But with Willie Mitchell still recovering, and Matt Green out til near playoff time, the Kings are shorthanded, both defensively and offensively. Besides a few blowout losses, like those to Chicago and Anaheim, the defense has played well enough to win games. And the offense has generated enough chances to win games. But neither has been over the top dominant enough to get the Kings, well, over the top.
But credit GM Dean Lombardi for taking a proactive approach. He traded center Andrei Loktionov last week for a fifth round pick from New Jersey. He flipped that pick for Keaton Ellerby, the big defensemen from the Florida Panthers. That virtual 3-way trade has freed the Kings from playing inexperienced youngsters like Jake Muzzin and Andrew Bodnarchuk at the blue-line, but has made for some unfamiliar pairings.
For the second night in his 2 nights as a King, Ellerby will be paired with Drew Doughty. On the one hand it makes sense to pair our newest addition on D with our top defensemen. But with Doughty’s inclinations to jump in on offense and roam a bit, this change could sacrifice the great pair he and the steady Rob Scuderi turned out to be. Accompanying Scuderi in the second defensive pairing is Voynov, who’s game resembles a European Drew Doughty. Then Alec Martinez and Davis Drewiskie, who to their credit have not been a liability in Mitchell and Greene’s absence, will round out the pairings,
Ellerby said about his pairing with Drew Doughty
I think we complement each other. He’s more offensive, and I guess I’m a little bit more defensive than that. But I think [with] a little bit more time together, I think we’ll figure each other out and just keep playing solid together.
Ellerby really doesn’t have much time however in this shortened NHL season. The Kings haven’t played like the 2nd to last place team in the Western Conference, but that’s where they stand. And with backup Jonathan Bernier likely in goal tonight, the Kings defense needs to be disciplined and move the puck as a unit to beat the team they upset in the second round of last year’s playoffs.