-The Penguins face the Kings tonight. The Kings enter this game in the midst of a rough patch of games. They've lost six out of their past seven games. They've been shutout twice during that span and have been limited to an average of 1.28 goals per game in those games.
-Amazingly, no one is calling for the head of head coach Darryl Sutter or general manager Dean Lombardi as far as we know.
-Could you imagine if the Penguins had a rough patch like that? The intensity of venom directed at Dan Bylsma and Ray Shero after last week's 3-0 loss at Dallas was intense. The Penguins' defense has hit a rough patch in terms of team defense as of late. Every amateur general manager has every manner of trade proposed in order to figure out the team's relatively minor problems.
-The thing not nearly enough people keep in mind about the Penguins or any team really is the fact that playing the same way over 82 games is nearly impossible, especially when the team has a humungous lead in the Eastern Conference. Sometimes, a team isn't going to get all that excited for games in January against ho-hum teams like the Stars or Panthers.
-If you don't believe us, look at the 2010-11 Canucks. That team won the President's Trophy and advanced to the Stanley Cup Final. It benefited by playing in the lousy Northwest Division which had four non-playoff teams in the Avalanche, Oilers, Flames and Wild. That Canucks team lost six of its 14 games in January and even had a four-game losing streak at one point.
-Tanner Glass was a member of that team. We talked to him about that rough patch of games and he saw plenty of parallels between the Canucks and this current group of Penguins. Each team has a ton of skill and some MVP-caliber palyers. Each team was/is running away with the division. While he was hesitant to outright say it was the case with these Penguins, Glass admitted there were times with that Canucks team they weren't all that focused with a weak division.
-Longtime EN Reader Eric Naughton sent in a few pregame shots of warmups:
-Kris Letang is out:
Kris Letang will be scratched tonight. #Penguins say an update will be given after the game.— Shelly Anderson (@pgshelly) January 31, 2014
-The Penguins' starters are Sidney Crosby, Tanner Glass, Chris Kunitz, Robert Bortuzzo, Rob Scuderi and Jeff Zatkoff.
-The scratches are Andrew Ebbett, Chuck Kobasew and Kris Letang.
-The Kings' starters are Trevor Lewis, Mike Richards, Justin Williams, Drew Doughty, Jake Muzzin and Jonathan Quick.
-Their scratches are Matt Frattin, Alec Martinez and Jeff Schultz.
19:03: Evgeni Malkin deals a pass from the right half wall to Jokinen in the slot. Jokinen lifts a wrister which Quick fights off with his glove but allows a rebound with his glove. Neal settles the rebound whips a spinning wrister at the cage. It hits something and bounces to Jokinen to the left of the crease. Jokinen is able to settle the puck and taps a backhanded pass to Malkin to the right of the net. Malkin sweeps the puck into the cage for an easy goal. Put that one on Quick. He should have gloved the shot by Jokinen but he allowed a poor rebound. Jokinen and Neal get assists. Penguins 1-0.
16:55: Engelland crashes into Jordan Nolan deep on the left wing in the Kings' zone.
16:06: Matt Greene tries to play a puck loose out of his own left wing corner. He gets the puck up ice but is hit hard by Glass who slams him to the ice and dislodges his helmet. Impressive feat of strength by Glass (6-foot-1, 20120 ) against the rugged Greene (6-foot-3, 234 pounds)
14:33: Bortuzzo smears Kyle Clifford into the left wing boards just inside the Penguins' blue line. There's plenty of hitting in this game thus far.
12:00: Malkin flies through the neutral zone, gains the Los Angeles blue line, weaves through a few defenders and sneaks a low backhander on net from the right circle. Quick kicks it out with his right skate.
11:27: Off a feed by Carter, Green rips a wrister from the left point. Zatkoff fights it off.
11:13: Carter rips a wrister from the left circle. Zatkoff fights it off. Mitchell cleans up the rebound but can't beat Zatkoff.
10:44: The Penguins will g on the penalty kill. Off a faceoff in the King's zone, Kunitz hooked up Dustin Brown. That's two minutes for hooking. Brandon Sutter, Craig Adams, Paul Martin and Brooks Orpik take the ice.
10:28: Sutter looses his stick and the Kings take advantage. As Kopitar controls the puck and wheels from center point to the left point. Sutter skates back to the right corner and recover his stick. He allows Adams to try to cover Kopitar. In the split second Sutter and Adams "exchanged" cover on Kopitar, Kopitar winds up and cranks a slapper from the left point. The puck rockets off his stick and blows right by Zatkoff's glove hand. What a shot. We're not sure Sutter realized how far away his stick was from the play. Drew Doughty and Slava Voynov get assists. Kings 1, Penguins 1.
9:55: The Penguins get a break as they end up with a two-man advantage. Malkin draws two penalties. Jarrett Stoll hooked him then Brown slashed him. They'll have a two-man advantage for two minutes. Crosby, Malkin,
9:43: Malkin blasts a slapper from above the right circle wide of the cage.
9:33: Neal cranks a one-timer from the right cirlce whic Mitchell blocks.
9:21: Another one-timer by Neal in the right circleis blocked byMitchell.
9:10: The Penguins cash in. Crosby takes pass in the left circle and taps a pass down low to Jokinen to the lef to of the cage. Jokinen one-touches a pass to Kunitz in the slot and Kunitz jabs a quick shot over Quick, off the cross bar and into the cage. That was some crisp passing. Jokinen and Crosby get assists.
8:13: Jussi Jokinen is racking up the points tonight. Malkin races up the left wing with the puck, draws in a few defenders, spins and deals a cross-ice pass to Jokinen on the right wing. Jokinen handsl the puck for a momentthen rips a wrister which blows right by the glove hand of Quick on the near side. What a shot. Jokinen already has a three-point game.
7:56: Off a feed by Sutter, Glass rips a wrister from the left circle wide to the far side.
6:43: A one-timer by Brian Gibbons in the left circle is partially blocked.
6:20: Crosby is called for hooking Kopitar in the King's left wing corner.
6:04: A wrister by Richards from the right half wall is blocked.
5:55: Muzzin snaps off a wrister from the left point which hits Richards.
5:40: Muzzin cranks a slapper from the left point which hits a body in front. Richards settles the puck and tries to sweep in the rebound with a forehand but Zatkoff's right leg denies him.
5:06: Voynov fires a slapper from the right point wide to the far side.
4:21: Adams chips the puck down ice to kill off the rest of Crosby's minor. The Kings controlled the puck well but couldn't really get many good shots off.
2:58: Gibbons draws a penalty through hard work. Gibbons pokes a puck away from Muzzin at the Kings' blue line and hustles in on net. Doughty slides down and forces Gibbons wide but ends up tripping him up. That's two minutes for tripping. Malkin, Neal, Crosby, Matt Niskanen and Kunitz take the ice.
2:21: Niskanen lifts a wrister from above the left circle. It hits a body and is kicked out to Malkin above the right circle. Malkin cranks a slapper which Quick boots away.
0:02: A wrister by Tyler Toffoli from the left wing is deflected out of play by Orpik's stick.
0:00: End of period. Penguins 3, Kings 1.
-We can't say we envisioned this. Even if the Kings have been struggling as of late, their problems were with creating goals, not stopping them.
-Jonathan Quick has not looked sharp. He has not helped his team tonight thus far.
-The physical tone for this game has been impressive. Each team is going at each other likes it's a playoff game.
-How dangerous does the Jokinen-Malkin-Neal line look?
-There were a ton of special teams in that period. We would expect that to level off a bit as the game wears on.
-The Kings have an 8-7 edge in shots on net.
-The Penguins have a 19-17 lead in attempted shots.
-Niskanen leads the Penguins with 7:55 of ice time.
-Doughty leads the Kings with 7:46 of ice time.
-The Kings have an 11-6 lead in faceoffs (65 percent).
-Stoll is 5 for 6 (83 percent).
-Malkin is 2 for 4 (50 percent).
-Orpik leads the game with three blocked shots.
-Mitchell leads the Kings with two blocked shots.
-Another picture from Eric Naughton:
20:00: The Kings put Martin Jones in net in place of Quick.
19:35: Muzzin whacks a slapper from the left point. Zatkoff eats it up.
18:12: Brown tries to sneak in from the left wing corner and jams a shot on net. Zatkoff holds it out.
17:21: Bortuzzo settles a puck at the right point and launches a wrister on net. Jones snags it.
17:11: On a rush up the left wing, Richards takes a pass on the left wing and chucks a wrister on net. Zatkoff steers it away.
16:32: The Kings have had slight control of this period thus far. Greene lifts a wrister from the right circle. It hits a stick and deflects on net. Zatkoff eats it up.
16:24: Off the ensuing faceoff, Carter lifts a wrister from the slot. Zatkoff eats it up.
15:57: Orpik has a puck stolen at his blue line. Kopitar tries to spin away from Orpik but looses the puck when Orpik knocks him backwards.
13:03: Adams gives Lewis a solid hit into the right wing boards of the Kings' zone.
12:04: Maatta whacks a slapper from the left point.
10:06: Malkin lifts a pedestrian wrister from the left wing. Jones eats it up.
9:24: Scuderi pounds a slapper from the left point which Jones punches away.
9:04: Off a feed by Malkin, Jokinen booms a one-timer from the left circle which Jones punches away.
8:33: Clifford lifts a slapper from above the left circle which Zatkoff fights off.
8:14: After a pass attempt by Niskanen, Robyn Regehr fumbles a puck in this neutral zone and Glass picks it up. With speed, Glass races up left wingwith puck on his backhand. He gets a step on Reghehr and lifts a backhander by the blocker of Jones on the far side. What a shot by Glass. That had little room for error in terms of the placement. Niskanen and Maatta get assists. Penguins 4-1.
6:40: A wrister by Megna from the left half wall is blocked out of play.
6:35: Off the ensuing faceoff, Kunitz whacks a one-timer from the right wing. Jones fights it off.
5:03: Neal rips a wrister from the left circle. Regehr deflects it out of play.
3:57: Using Scuderi as screen, Williams whips a low wrister from the right wing. Zatkoff steers it away.
3:53: Zatkoff whips a wrister from the left wing. Zatkoff kicks it away.
2:25: A wrister by Clifford from the left circle is fought off by Zatkoff.
1:14: Sutter flips a wrister from the left circle. Jones eats it up.
0:16: A wrister by Voynov from the left wing is blocked.
0:00: End of period. Penguins 4, Kings 1.
-Play leveled off in that period but the Penguins still increased their lead by one.
-The Kings really pressed things early in the period but couldn't crack Zatkoff.
-Zatkoff has had a lot of help from his defense. They collapsed around the net quite a bit that period.
-Shots on net are tied, 19-19.
-The Kings have a 37-36 lead in attempted shots.
-Richards, Muzzin and Malkin each lead the game with three shots.
-Fire Ray Shero.
-Doughty leads the game with 15:56.
-Niskanen leads the Penguins with 14:05.
-The Kings have a 23-14 lead in faceoffs (62 percent).
-Stoll is 8 for 10 (80 percent).
-Crosby is 8 for 13 (62 percent).
-Bortuzzo and Orpik each lead the game with three blocked shots.
-Mitchell leads the Kings with two blocked shots.
-The Kings' Twitter feed reacted to the Penguins' fourth goal:
Penguins score. pic.twitter.com/PwkkselpPk— LA Kings (@LAKings) January 31, 2014
18:37: Kopitar settles a puck and snaps off a tricky backhander from the slot which Zatkoff fights off.
16:30: BIIIIIGG save. Muzzin snaps off a pass from teh neutral zone to Justin Williams who blows by Orpik and races in on net. He lifts a wrister which Zatkoff calmly gloves. The Penguins were in the midst of a bad line change but Orpik looked really flatfooted off that chance.
15:34: Neal centers a pass from the right corner to the crease. Malkin crashes in and pokes it wide.
15:23: Neal centers another pass from the right circle. Jokinen deflects it on net from the slot and Jones kicks it out.
14:16: Bortuzzo slams Doughty from behind into the Penguins' end boards. No call.
13:49: Glass is called for hooking slashing Colin Fraser near the boards. Crosby, Adams, Orpik and Martin.
13:13: As slapper by Doughty from the right point is blocked by Adams.
12:59: Sutter rips a wrister from the right wing. Jones eats it up.
11:56: A wrister by Williams from the left wing is punched away by Zatkoff's blocker
11:43: Glass lifts a wrister from the right wing on net. Jones fights it off.
11:08: Greene snaps off a wrister from the right point. Zatkoff snags it. Clifford bumps into Zatkoff. Bortuzzo gives Clifford some grief and a scrum develops. Nothing comes of it.
10:46: Lewis dumps Maatta hard in front of the Kings' bench.
10:01: Mitchell floats a tricky wrister from the left point. Zatkoff scoops it up.
9:49: Carter pushes the puck up the left wing and is tripped up by Sutter. Carter takes a tumble a little too easily. Sutter heads to the penalty box. Crosby, Adams, Martin and Orpik take the ice.
8:37: A one-timer by Doughtly from the center point is deflected juuust wide to the left of the cage.
8:24: A one-timer by Doughty from the left circle is snagged by Zatkoff.
7:42: Orpik steps up on Lewis in front of the Penguins' bench and smacks him. That pinch allows Brown to sneak up the left wing with space on a two-on-one. Martin defends down the slot. Brown lifts a wrister which deflects out of play.
6:51: Carter is denied in tight by Zatkoff.
6:46: Toffoli whacks a weak one-timer from the right wing. Zatkoff punches it away.
6:35: Another big save. Carter edals a pass from behind the net to Kopitar in front of the crease. He's robbed twice by Zatkoff. Wow.
4:50: Robyn Regehr whacks a slapper from the left point wide on the near side.
4:06: Pyatt barges in from the left wing on net with the puck. Jones smothers it.
1:28: Battlin for apuck in the right wing corner of the Kings' zone, Voynov swings his stick up and catches Megna in the face. That draws some blood and sends Megna to the dressing room. No call.
0:00: End of game. Penguins 4, Kings 1.
-First things first, an update on Kris Letang:
Bylsma: #Penguins defenseman Kris Letang is ill— Shelly Anderson (@pgshelly) January 31, 2014
-Road wins this thorough are rarely this easily, especially against teams as talented as the Kings. But don't get too excited. Not to be a killjoy, but the Penguins beat a Kings team which is playing something terrible right now. The Penguins should have won this game.
-There's a school of thought that the Penguins' defense tends to be better without Letang in the lineup and a game like this will be used as ammo. But as we stated in the pregame, the Kings are not playing well at the moment. Including this game, they have averaged 1.25 goals in their past 10 games. In that span, they've been shutout. This team's offense is gasping right now. The penguins should shut them down under the current circumstances.
-The second line, the power play and Jeff Zatkoff were the bright spots for the Penguins tonight.
-First, Zatkoff. He wasn't tested a great deal, but when he was, he stood up to the challenge. He shook off a early, powerful goal by Anze Kopitar and rejected every other shot by the Kings. He made some clutch saves in the third period to secure this win.
-The second line of Jussi Jokinen, Evgeni Malkin and James Neal had some impressive chemistry. The precision of their passes was scary at times.
-At what point does Jokinen become the Penguins' top free agent priority this season? It hasn't been easy finding left wingers for Malkin over the years.
-The Penguins' power play really sealed the win for them early on. They jumped all over the two-man advantage they were given and jumped out to an early lead.
-What has Tanner Glass been eating as of late? He's playing easily his best hockey since joining the Penguins. He was having a solid campaign before he injured his hand in November. He looked ineffective for a few games after returning from the injury but in the past three games, he's playing each game like it's Game 7 of a conference final.
-We're not sure Brooks Orpik had a great game. Two of the Kings' best chances in the third period - a breakaway by Justin Williams and a rush up the right wing by Dustin Brown - came off plays where Orpik wasn't in great position.
-Orpik and Paul Martin haven't been all that effective since each came back from injuries.
-Robert Bortuzzo returned to the lineup after several healthy scratches. He looked pretty aggressive right from the start. He helped set a physical tone for this contest.
-The Penguins did not face Jonathan Quick at his best. He looked like he just wasn't ready for this game.
-Mike Richards is one of the Kings' best players and he was nearly invisible tonight.
-The Kings led in shots on net, 31-22.
-The Kings led in attempted shots, 60-40.
-Former Penguins prospect Jake Muzzin and Anze Kopitar each led the game with four shots.
-Fire Ray Shero.
-Glass, Brandon Sutter, Jokinen and Malkin each led the Penguins with three shots.
-Drew Doughty led the game with 22:46 of ice time.
-Matt Niskanen led the Penguins with 20:48.
-The Kings led in faceoffs, 34-22 (61 percent).
-Jeff Carter was 12 for 15 (80 percent).
-Malkin was 12 for 20 (60 percent).
-Orpik and Bortuzzo each led the game with three blocked shots.
-Willie Mitchell led the Kings with two blocked shots.
-Malkin moved ahead of Ron Francis for fifth place on Penguins' career scoring list. Both players have 613 points but Malkin (232 goals) is technically ahead of Francis (164) based on goals.
-Jokinen recorded his 50th career point with the Penguins and broke into the team's top 150 career scorers.
-Last but not least: