Kings (25-18-10, 60 points) vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (23-23-5, 51 points) at Tampa Bay Times Forum, 4:30 p.m. PT
Five storylines to track:
1. Rocky road trip – It’s not yet salvage time, but another loss on this six-game road trip and the Kings will be lucky just to go home with an even split. They've done a fine job demonstrating to other fans just how they've become the league's lowest-scoring team this season, completely no-showing in a 1-0 loss Friday night in St. Louis, then playing one good period in a 2-1 defeat the following night at Carolina. Now they face a Tampa Bay team that owns the highest goals-against average in the league (3.33), pretty much leaving the Kings without an excuse should they fail to put up three goals. The Lightning gave up at least that many to 10 of 12 opponents last month.
2. Richards is poorer – Maybe the sight of a few more Eastern Conference arenas will awaken Kings center Mike Richards from his scoring slump. Richards, acquired in the offseason from the Philadelphia Flyers, hasn’t registered a point in the last eight games, his longest drought since he went 10 straight during the 2006-07 season. He has done well against the Lightning in his career, however, registering 10 goals and 12 assists in 21 career games. Whatever it takes, Richards needs to start resembling the player he was in November.
3. Class of ’08 – Tampa Bay center Steven Stamkos was taken No. 1 overall in the 2008 NHL Draft. Kings defenseman Drew Doughty was selected No. 2. Only one has continued to live up to his reputation. While Doughty hasn’t come close to matching his stellar sophomore season from two years ago, Stamkos is on pace to tickle the 100-point barrier for a third consecutive year. Stamkos might have added incentive to play well against the Kings. They're the only team in the NHL he has yet to score against.
4. Bad deal – It was this time two years ago that the Kings traded Teddy Purcell to Tampa Bay for Jeff Halpern. The Kings thought they’d seen all Purcell had to offer, mainly the eight goals in 91 games spread over three seasons. Purcell quickly found his niche in Tampa Bay, however, scoring 17 goals and contributing 34 assists in 81 games last season. He’s scoring goals at a more rapid clip this season, owning 13 in 50 games. Meanwhile, Halpern was gone and forgotten after 22 games in L.A. Right about now, the Kings could sure use a player with Purcell's scoring touch. Only two Kings have more goals this season and one is Richards.
5. Lightning on the upswing – The Lightning might be the streakiest team in the NHL. They’ve had three losing streaks of five games or more this season, but also won at least three straight on four occasions. The Kings might be catching the Lightning at the wrong time, as they’ve earned points in the last seven games with a 6-0-1 record. Martin St. Louis is also on fire for the Lightning. He produced his fifth career hat trick Saturday night in a 6-3 victory against Florida, which also happened to be his 600th career game.