By Allan Muir
No need for the Los Angeles Kings to look over the horizon. The cavalry isn't coming.
Jon Rosen reported from the team's morning skate that neither Willie Mitchell nor Robyn Regehr are likely to be available for tonight's must-win Game 6 match-up with the Anaheim Ducks (9:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS).
Based on what we've seen from the Kings' defense so far in this series, that doesn't bode well for their chances.
Mitchell, who was injured in Game 6 of L.A.'s first round series with San Jose, skated on his own this morning but didn't participate in any team drills. Regehr, out since the opening minutes of Game 1 against the Ducks, hasn't yet resumed skating.
Their absence shouldn't come as a surprise, but it does leave a significant hurdle for the stumbling Kings to manage. For all the success they've had controlling the puck for prolonged stretches through the first five games, they've been a gong show in their own end without the steady play of those two veterans. Their struggles to contain Anaheim's heavyweight forwards illustrate just how fortunate they were to dress their top six defenders through the entirety of their 2012 Stanley Cup run.
Without those two pillars, the survivors will have to band together and provide better protection for goalie Jonathan Quick, but it might take a superlative performance from the 2012 Conn Smythe trophy winner to extend this series to a seventh game on Friday night.
It's a good bet that the Kings will make some roster/line switches for tonight's game, but coach Darryl Sutter wasn't tipping his hand at practice. Rosen reported that the team did not run line rushes and players left the ice at the same time. No reason to clue the Ducks (or fans) in to his plans any earlier than necessary.
Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said today that he doesn’t expect forward Matt Beleskey or goalie Frederik Andersen to play again in this series. Beleskey is recovering from a lower body injury he suffered in Game 1. Andersen is sidelined by an extreme blockage called John Gibson.
Boudreau also said that despite picking up wins in the past two games, his team was better than the Kings in just two of the four periods. The Ducks were guilty in Game 4 of sitting back and protecting their early 2-0 margin, but showed a little more killer instinct in Game 5 when they went up 3-1. Boudreau continues to preach that safe is death, so expect the Ducks to employ a more aggressive forecheck if they get a lead tonight.
From the Take It For What It's Worth Department: Only Ryan Suter (284) has been on the ice for more Corsi For events (shots, missed shots, blocked shots) than Drew Doughty (261). You can argue the value of the stat, but it does a fair job of pointing out just how much Doughty has meant to the Kings attack.
Kings-Ducks Game 5 recap | Box score | Observations