One of the early challenges for many NHL teams is adjusting to the busy first month of the season while trying to rack up as many points as possible.
The Tampa Bay Lightning and Los Angeles Kings have already experienced challenges with their schedules heading into their Tuesday night matchup in Los Angeles.
The Lightning will have played on back-to-back days three times in their first eight games when they face the Kings and then turn around and visit the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday.
The Kings are coming off five games in eight days on an East Coast trip that started with surprising success before running on fumes toward the end.
The Lightning haven’t let their hectic schedule affect them so far. They are coming off a nice weekend, beating the Florida Panthers, 3-2, in overtime on Friday in Sunrise, Fla., and a day later downing the visiting New York Islanders, 5-3.
They split their other back-to-back set, beating the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-2 on Oct. 14, and losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins 6-2 the following day, both on the road.
Tampa Bay wasn’t as sharp on Saturday against New York as it was the night before against the Panthers, but Brayden Point, Brandon Hagel and Nick Paul each contributed a goal and an assist, as goalie Brian Elliott stopped 32 of 35 shots in his second start of the season.
“You have to find a way to win when you’re not at your best,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said.
Los Angeles posted one-goal wins against the Minnesota Wild, Detroit Red Wings and Nashville Predators to open their first road trip of the season, but then lost 6-1 to the Penguins on Thursday, and 4-3 to the Washington Capitals on Saturday.
“It’s taxing at the beginning of the year,” Kings coach Todd McLellan said. “You’re not used to the games coming quickly and spending eight or nine days on the road.”
McLellan’s main concern was the 23 goals allowed on the trip.
“If we left L.A. last Friday and somebody would have told me we would score 20 goals on this road trip, I’d be pretty darn excited about winning a lot of games,” McLellan said.
Cal Petersen, who is supposed to be the heir apparent to Jonathan Quick, started three of those games and won two, but had a 4.97 goals-against average and .842 save percentage in those games.
Viktor Arvidsson had a goal and two assists in the loss to the Capitals, his first points of the season.
Arvidsson said he’s beginning to feel more comfortable handling the puck and making plays with linemates Trevor Moore and Phillip Danault. He considered his line’s performance against the Capitals to be their best of the season.
“We’re starting to get our groove back,” Arvidsson said. “We’re starting to feel better.”
For Tampa Bay, Andrei Vasilevskiy will likely get the start in goal against the Kings with Elliott starting against the Ducks on Wednesday.
Vasilevskiy is 7-2-0 in 10 career starts against the Kings with a 2.73 GAA and .919 save percentage.
Los Angeles placed forward Alex Iafallo on long-term injured reserve on Sunday. He sustained a lower-body injury on Oct. 17 against the Red Wings. Iafallo had 17 goals and 20 assists in 79 games with the Kings last season.
Los Angeles recalled forward Austin Wagner from the Ontario Reign of the American Hockey League. Wagner, 25, has played 171 games for the Kings over the past three seasons, scoring 22 goals with 18 assists.
–Field Level Media