Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Three questions facing Los Angeles Kings

1. Will Ilya Kovalchuk spark the offense?
The Kings signed Kovalchuk after scoring 2.89 goals per game (16th in the NHL) last season and three goals during a four-game loss to the Vegas Golden Knights in the Western Conference First Round. 
Kovalchuk has scored at least 40 goals six times in the NHL. However, the forward is also 35 years old, and the NHL is trending more toward youth and speed.
2. Can 'That '70s Line' be productive again?
Tyler Toffoli was fourth on Los Angeles with 47 points (24 goals, 23 assists) in 82 games, but had 17 (six goals, 11 assists) in his final 40 games. Tanner Pearson fell from 24 goals in 80 games in 2016-17 to 15 in 82 last season. Jeff Carter (22 points; 13 goals, nine assists) wasn't 100 percent down the stretch and in the playoffs after a lacerated ankle tendon sidelined him for 55 games.
The Kings need what they received when Toffoli, Carter and Pearson totaled 23 points (11 goals, 12 assists) during their seven-game win against the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2014 Western Conference Final.
"The middle of your lineup is critical," said coach John Stevens, who was an assistant then. "When we won in '14 that line was invaluable for us, especially in the Chicago series."
3. Who out of the young players will take the next big step?
Forwards Adrian Kempe and Alex Iafallo, and defensemen Derek Forbort and Paul LaDue, are among the young core being counted on to increase their production.
Kempe, 21, scored 16 goals in 52 games through Feb. 7 but ended the season on a 33-game goal drought, including the playoffs. Iafallo, 24, had 25 points (nine goals, 16 assists) in 75 games while seeing time on the first line. Forbort, 26, was plus-18 in 78 games. LaDue, 25, seems poised for a breakout season.
"We encourage our guys to try to push for roster spots," general manager Rob Blake said. "Iafallo and Kempe did that the past training camp. I think Paul LaDue deserves a chance to play regularly here. He's earned that last year stepping in and out of the lineup. We have some other kids in the minors who will get a look in camp. You expect these young guys to push for spots, yes."

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