Los Angeles Kings (23-14-6) open a four-game home stanza against Pacific Division rivals Edmonton Oilers (21-17-3) on Monday, who are starting a run of four games on the road.
The Kings are second in the Pacific Division and seven points ahead of the fifth placed Oilers, though they have played two games more.
LA are 12-7-2 at home and in better recent form than the Oilers going 7-2-1 in their last ten games, while Edmonton are 11-6-1 on the road and 4-4-2 in the past ten.
|What:||Edmonton Oilers @ Los Angeles Kings|
|Where:||Crypto.com Arena, Los Angeles|
|When:||22:30 ET, Monday 9th January|
|How to watch:||NHL.com/ BSW, SNW|
|Odds:||Edmonton Oilers -105, Los Angeles Kings|
The Oilers are fifth in the NHL for scoring, averaging 3.51 goals per game and have the luxury of the two top point producers in the league in Connor McDavid (76; 33 goals, 43 assists) and Leon Draisaitl (62; 22 goals, 40 assists).
They also have the best powerplay in the league, converting at a rate of 32.2%, so it's curious that they currently find themselves with a points percentage of .549 and relying on the second Wild Card spot into the playoffs from the Western Conference.
-280 to secure a post-season place and to miss out, the Oilers rank just 21st in the NHL for goals at even strength averaging 1.90 per game, but their goals allowed is doing most of the damage to their record and goal differential (+7) allowing an average of 3.32 per game (20th).
Their penalty kill is also a major let down, conceding on 74.2% of chances which is 23rd in the league.
Defence is a clear issue and they were reminded of that again in their most recent game where they blew a 2-0 lead in the third period to lose 2-3 to Colorado Avalanche.
The Kings have also suffered from defensive deficiencies this season and rank below the Oilers for average goals conceded at 22nd with 3.37.
Helped by a 5-1 win over the Vegas Golden Knights in their latest fixture, the Kings' offence has helped compensate for some of that by scoring an average of 3.21 goals per game which is 16th in the league.
Their offence and the timeliness of their goals has helped the Kings to an automatic playoff position and while they have the benefit of having played more games than any other team, their .605 points percentage is a healthy third in the division.
Like Edmonton, LA concede a lot on the penalty kill with only three teams performing worse than their 72.3%.
On the powerplay, the Kings rank 15th with a 23.1% conversion rate and so special teams are likely to play a big factor in the result, and unless both sides can find a way to tighten up at the back-end, plenty of goals can be expected.
A large part of the Oilers and Kings' defensive issues have been down to well below-par goaltending and both teams have relied on an unexpected source to save their season.
The Oilers signed 30-year-old Jack Campbell to a five-year, $5-million contract from the Toronto Maple Leafs in the off-season and the Kings drafted in 28-year-old Cal Petersen on a three-year, $5-million deal in September 2021, with both franchises hoping the deals would stabilise their net for the foreseeable future.
Sadly, for both teams the pair of goalies struggled badly to begin the season and in the case of Petersen, his confidence was shattered so badly that he was demoted to the Ontario Reign of the AHL.
At that time Petersen was 5-3-2 with a .868 save percentage and 3.75 goals-against-average (GAA), and Campbell hasn't performed much better going 9-7-1 with a .878 save percentage and 3.69 GAA.
Campbell remains in the NHL, but his ice time has been severely cut as the Oilers were forced to turn to 24-year-old Stuart Skinner who has provided some consistency going 12-10-2 with a .915 save percentage and 2.88 GAA.
The Kings meanwhile sought solace in their original third choice Pheonix Copley who has performed admirably with a 10-2-0 record, .904 save percentage and 2.52.
By no means is either a perfect solution, but right now it's the only one the teams have and who performs better on the night will have a big say on the outcome of the result.
Longer-term if the +2000 Oilers or Kings are to deliver on their respective odds of winning the Stanley Cup, a great improvement from their five-million-dollar men is surely needed, or a major move ahead of the trade deadline on 3rd March.
LA forward Trevor Moore (seven goals, 12 assists) was the surprise hero in the first and only meeting of the two this season, scoring a hat-trick in a 3-1 Kings win back in mid-November at Rogers Place in Edmonton.
The Oilers have enjoyed the greater recent success against the Kings though winning Game 7 in the first round of last season's playoffs en route to the Western Conference Final.