Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day! As we take time to remember the humanitarian contributions of the civil rights icon, the sports world will feature a slate of afternoon games throughout the country, including a 1:00 PM Pacific Time puck drop between the Los Angeles Kings and Tampa Bay Lightning at Staples Center.
The Kings are now 5-2-0 in their last 7 games, and are 3-2-0 on this homestand that ends on January 18 against the San Jose Sharks.
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Once this run at Staples Center concludes, the Kings will embark on a 5 game road trip, and play 9 out of their next 10 games on the road.
It’s slightly disconcerting, because of how much better the Kings have played at home this year compared to on the road. They sport a 14-6-1 record at home, while they’re only 8-11-3 outside the friendly confines of Staples Center.
The Kings are currently penciled in the second wild card spot in the Western Conference at 48 points.
The Tampa Bay Lightning recently retired the jersey of legendary player Martin St. Louis, making him the first player in the history of the franchise to be bestowed that honor.
On the ice, it’s been a relatively disappointing season for a team just two years removed from a Stanley Cup appearance and coming off a loss in the Eastern Conference Finals last year.
The Lightning have a 20-20-4 record with 44 points, and are on the outside looking in at the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
The Lightning have had to make due without prolific goal scorer Steven Stamkos in the lineup for much of the season. Stamkos played in just 17 games before tearing the lateral meniscus in his right knee. He had 20 points in those 17 games, and is now expected to be out until mid-March.
Following his first career 30 goal season last year, Nikita Kucherov is having another strong campaign for the Lightning. He leads the team with 40 points in 37 games.
The towering defenseman Victor Hedman is also in the midst of what’s on pace to be his best offensive season of his career. He has 38 points in 44 games.