NHL: Los Angeles Kings at Dallas Stars
Dustin Penner returns to a former home tonight, as the Washington Capitals face one of his former teams, the Los Angeles Kings.

Tonight at 10:30 PM, the Washington Capitals continue their West Coast roadtrip as they visit the Staples Center to take on the Los Angeles Kings. This is a very important matchup for the Capitals, as they need all the points that they can get to make the playoffs. Getting a win in LA would go a long way to helping the Capitals get into the playoffs.

These were the Capitals lines at practice today:

Considering how much Oates has been adjusting lines (excluding the third line) during the game recently, I wouldn’t read much into those line combinations because they’ll be mixed up during the game. Somehow, it seems to be working for them, so why try to fix something that’s not broken?

Just like on Tuesday when they played the Anaheim Ducks, the Capitals face a huge challenge tonight in the Kings. The Kings are a completely different challenge than the Ducks, and arguably a tougher one for the Capitals. The Ducks offense was the fourth highest scoring team in the NHL. The Kings are not only the best defensive team (fewest goals allowed), they are also the second best possession team overall and the best possession team in the NHL at even strength. Where do the Capitals stand? They’re the 6th worst defensive team as far as goals allowed, 5th worst possession team overall, and 5th worst possession team at even strength. This is going to be a gritty game, which is why this game is going to be so tough- the Capitals have not been “gritty” since the days of Dale Hunter as head coach.

While the Kings are the best defensive team in the NHL, they are the second worst scoring team in the NHL if you look at goals scored. The Kings sound a lot like the 2011-2012 Washington Capitals coached by Dale Hunter, don’t they? Well, they are quite similar. Both have suffocating defenses that are very good at preventing shots (though the Kings clearly have a better goalie than the Capitals did), both had offenses that struggled mightily to score.

This is the type of game that’s going to tell us what the Capitals are really made of. They play the San Jose Sharks on Saturday, and they haven’t beaten San Jose at San Jose since about 2000000000 B.C. Tonight is a must-win game for the Capitals, and they must win it by gritting it out. Time to see if all of the lessons Dale Hunter taught the Capitals 2 years ago paid off.

Score prediction: 3-1 Capitals. It will be 2-1 until an empty net goal is scored in the last minute or so.
GWG prediction: My gut tells me Jason ChimeraHe’s been playing extremely well recently and he was robbed of at least one goal on Tuesday. Empty netter will be scored by Dustin Penner.