It’s no surprise that the Pittsburgh Penguins have been an offensive force to begin the season. Similarly predictable, the Los Angeles Kings have been one of the league’s stingiest teams.
The defending Stanley Cup champions visit Pittsburgh on Thursday night, making their second stop on a five-game trip with hopes of extending an eight-game run without a regulation loss.
The Kings (6-1-2) began the swing Tuesday with a 3-2 overtime loss in Philadelphia to continue a point streak in which they haven’t allowed more than two regulation goals. They had given up five goals in their previous six games, and they’ll bring the same unflappable mentality against the big-name Penguins.
"We’ll play tomorrow, and then forget about it. That’s the way we go about it," coach Darryl Sutter told the team’s official website. "There are no ups and downs with our team. We’ve learned to really keep it right there. We know who our opponent is and we’ll respect our opponent, and we’ll try and beat our opponent. We know that we’re not going to beat ourselves."
Los Angeles is giving up 1.67 goals per game, which figures to be tested by the Penguins’ 4.12 scoring average.
"They’re a big, heavy team," coach Mike Johnston told the Penguins’ website. "They’re a team that has a lot of balance, a lot of confidence in their game, so it’s going to be a good test for us."
That scoring average got a considerable bump from Tuesday’s 8-3 home win over New Jersey.
Sidney Crosby scored twice, Blake Corneau, Steve Downie, Pascal Dupuis and Patric Hornqvist each had a goal and an assist, and Evgeni Malkin kept his season-long point streak alive with a goal.
Malkin has nine points in five career games against Los Angeles, all ending in wins.
Hornqvist, now eight games into his first season with the Penguins (5-2-1), is certainly benefiting from his new surroundings with five goals and six assists after posting a career-best 0.70 points per game in his final season with Nashville.
Hornqvist assisted Malkin on the power play as part of a 3-for-7 night, bumping their season success rate to 40.6 percent. The Kings, though, have gone 21 for 22 on the kill over the last seven games.
Pittsburgh could also have to contend with an in-form Jonathan Quick. The Los Angeles goaltender has faced 40-plus shots four times in his last seven games but posted a 5-0-2 record, 1.39 goals-against average and .960 save percentage.
He’s 1-2-2 with a 2.90 GAA and .887 save percentage versus the Penguins, including a January loss in which he was pulled after allowing three goals on seven shots.
Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury has been more pedestrian this season with three goals or more allowed in four of seven starts. He’s 5-2-0 with a 2.44 GAA. His career against Los Angeles has been slightly better with a 4-2-0 record and 2.26 GAA in six starts.
Los Angeles’ top-heavy scoring statistics might tip Fleury off on who to keep a particularly close eye on. Tanner Pearson (seven goals), Tyler Toffoli (five) and Jeff Carter (five) have scored 74 percent of the team’s 23 goals.
Toffoli has eight points in his last four games, and Carter has eight goals in his last 13 against Pittsburgh.
The Kings could be welcoming back some weapons to help spread things around. Anze Kopitar, Marian Gaborik and Trevor Lewis have all been out with upper-body injuries and practiced Wednesday.
The teams split two games last season with the road team winning each.