The Boston Bruins will host the Los Angeles Kings in the second of a five home-game stand.
Boston are a near perfect 15-0-1 on home ice this season, outscoring their opponents 62-28. The only victors have been the Vegas Golden Knights who ended the Bruins' NHL-record home game winning streak to start a season at 14.
With an inconsistent 8-7-3 road record and being outscored 57-68 away from home, the Kings are a clear underdog going into Boston but have reasons to be optimistic, not least the form of Captain Anze Kopitar whose five goals in December is tied for ninth most in the NHL.
What: Los Angeles Kings @ Boston Bruins
Where: TD Garden, Boston, MA
When: 19:00 ET, Thursday 15th December, 2022
How to watch: NESN, BSW
Odds: LA Kings SP, Boston Bruins SP
After missing the playoffs for three straight seasons between 2018 and 21, the Kings shot up the standings last season finishing third in the Pacific Division (44-27-11). Unfancied in the post-season, Todd McLellan's side pushed Western Conference Finalist Edmonton Oilers all the way to a game seven in the first round where were beaten 2-0.
LA are -150 to make the playoffs for a consecutive season, the Kings again hold third spot in the Pacific with a 15-11-5 record and have proven on their day that they can be a tough match for anybody.
It must be their day, though, and not knowing what version of the Kings he's going to get has been a frustration for coach McLellan whose side have gone more than a month without winning consecutive games.
Typically, the Kings have collected half of an available ten points so far on a six-game road trip (2-2-1) which most recently saw them fall 6-0 in Buffalo against the Sabres and ends in Boston.
While 55-year-old McLellan is pleased with his team's offensive production this season, scoring 3.28 average goals-per-game (14th in the NHL) and with a powerplay firing at 23.4% (13th), their goals against of 3.69 (28th) and penalty-kill of 70.4% (also 28th) has been a major cause for concern.
LA's improvement from 2.91 goals-for per-game last season has been helped by the addition of Kevin Fiala who was acquired from the Minnesota Wild and leads the team with 32 points (nine goals, 23 assists).
Their downturn from allowing 2.87 average goals per-game last season is in McLellan's view down to "carelessness" in the defensive zone, including bad turnovers and too many odd man rushes.
LA's goaltending has also been well below par with two-time Stanley Cup champion and Conn Smythe Trophy winner Jonathan Quick showing every bit of his 36-years of age with a .882 save-percentage and 3.55 goals-against-average (GAA) in 21 games.
Cal Petersen, 28, who was eyed to take over from Quick has performed even worse with a .868 save-percentage and 3.75 GAA before he was placed on waivers, unclaimed and demoted to the minors.
Given their defensive issues, the Boston Bruins under new coach Jim Montgomery are a daunting prospect for the Kings to come up against.
Boston lead all NHL teams with a 23-4-1 record, have scored the second most goals (3.86 average per-game) and conceded the least (2.14). Their powerplay ranks third (28.6%) and penalty-kill the best in the league (85.8%).
The Bruins have finished top of the NHL standings and been awarded the Presidents' Trophy three times in history and are +135 favourite to claim the award again this season and claim crucial home ice advantage through the playoffs.
They have won the Stanley Cup six times, most recently in 2011 and after their sensational start to the season are 6/1 to win it again this season.
26-year-old David Pastrnak is their major threat and leads the team with 39 points (19 goals, 20 assists) which is sixth best of all NHL players. He is +1800 to win the Hart Memorial Trophy as the league's most valuable player.
At the opposite end, number-one goalie Linus Ullmark has produced a .938 save-percentage and 1.83 GAA and his partner Jeremy Swayman a .887 save-percentage and 2.80 GAA.
Ullmark is +400 to win the Vezina Trophy as goalie of the year.
Los Angeles' 32 first period goals is bettered by just two teams, Vegas Golden Knights (37) and Buffalo Sabres (34) and they will rely on getting off to a good start in Boston to give them confidence.
The Kings have scored first in 13 of their 32 games and won nine when they have (.692%). Boston have taken the lead 16 times in 28 games, and have won every time, so the opening goal will be key.
The Bruins have conceded first 12 times and won seven of those (.583%) while the Kings have gone behind 19 times, winning just six (.316%).