Breaking Down the Los Angeles Kings’ 2nd-Line Dilemma

Though the Los Angeles Kings have won six of their last seven regular-season games and are looking like a nightmarish first-round matchup, the NHL playoffs will separate the men from the boys.

Head coach Darryl Sutter’s club just so happens to feature a pair of the latter in its forward ranks with Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli.

Can he afford to play both of them alongside Jeff Carter in the postseason, where the slightest mistake could spell the difference between victory and defeat?

The answer would be a straightforward “no” in most circumstances.

However, L.A. finds itself in a muddier situation.


The Dilemma

Three of the team’s four forward lines have been performing well since Mike Richards was plucked from Carter’s line and placed between Trevor Lewis and Kyle Clifford.

Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik have been afforded the time to jell, and it’s starting to pay off in emphatic fashion. Meanwhile, Jarret Stoll’s group with Dustin Brown and Dwight King has performed brilliantly over the past couple of games.

As I mentioned last week, Richards has also been reinvigorated next to Lewis and Clifford to form one of the finest fourth lines in the league. They're producing chances and energy on a nightly basis.

In big-picture terms, L.A. has maintained its stout defense while ramping up its offense in the past month.

On the season, the Kings have scored 2.41 goals per game while conceding 2.08. Since the March 5 trade deadline, they’ve managed 38 goals for (2.92 GPG) and 28 against (2.15 GAPG) in 13 outings. Their goal differential per game has ballooned following the acquisition of Gaborik.

The team’s rolling tide is redolent of the one spurred by Carter’s arrival in L.A. in 2011-12, when the Kings took home their first and only Stanley Cup...

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