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Behind Enemy Lines: Kings in the midst of a major transition

Losing their starting goaltender in the season opener hasn't affected the Kings too badly.

NHL: Montreal Canadiens at Los Angeles Kings Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Hurricanes and Los Angeles Kings could not be any more different. Two points separate the teams coming into the matchup but the paths each team is on stray far apart.

The Hurricanes are a young, up and coming team with a lot of cap room and cheap contracts on the books. The Kings are muddled with uncertainty as a team that seems to be stuck between old and new. Heavy contracts can be seen with one glimpse up and down their roster.

The Kings may be giving their current core only a few more chances before they decide to move on and rebuild. Perhaps the first to go may be former captain Dustin Brown who is in the third year of an eight-year, $47 million contract. The right winger has recorded 11 points in 25 games headed into tonight’s match-up.

The Kings come in tonight’s game with momentum on their side although the team still remains out of a playoff spot. They are 6-2-2 in their last 10 games and haven’t lost to the Hurricanes at home in eleven years. Their last game was a 5-4 overtime loss against the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday. This will be the first of two meetings between the Kings and Hurricanes this season.

Storylines:

  • A factor of the Kings slow start is the early season injury to goalie Jonathan Quick. Quick injured his groin in his first start of the season and underwent a non-surgical procedure rather than opting for surgery. Quick could return to action in January.
  • In Quick’s absence, Peter Budaj has filled in respectably, carrying the majority of the load in goal. Budaj gets the night off tonight in favor of Jeff Zatkoff, making his fourth start of the year.
  • Jeff Carter has been a big factor for the Kings as he leads the team in points with 21 (11 goals, 10 assists).
  • The Kings, like the Hurricanes, thrive when their defense is clicking. The Kings focus on shot suppression and the stats back it up. LA allows only 25.9 shots per game. The Hurricanes allow 27.9.
  • Special teams have been a killer for the Kings as they rank 23rd on the penalty kill and 27th with the man advantage. The Hurricanes rank 1st in the league with a man down and 12th with the man advantage.
  • Tyler Toffoli, tied for second on the Kings in scoring with 14 points, was one of the most pleasant surprises of the 2015-16 season. Toffoli hit the 30 goal mark and saw his production jump 9 points from the previous season (2014-15) as he finished with 58 points. The Hurricanes must contain the speedy Scarborough native and the Kings’ effective 2nd line of Toffoli-Carter-Pearson.