| Sports

Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Penguins bracing for 'heavy' Kings in rare meeting

Getty Images
Goalie Jonathan Quick is a big reason why the L.A. Kings lead the NHL with a 2.0 goals-against average.

Penguins/NHL Videos

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By Josh Yohe
Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014, 10:06 p.m.

The glitzy team from the blue-collar town will take on the blue-collar team from the glitzy town Thursday.

Many of the Penguins sound unsure of what to expect.

The Penguins and Kings rarely meet, having last played Nov. 5, 2011, but will face off Thursday at Staples Center.

“I think this is the kind of game we've been needing to play,” defenseman Matt Niskanen said.

Niskanen's thinking is simple.

The Penguins can win talent contests against any NHL team and have emerged as one of the Eastern Conference's best teams. But many of the powerful teams in the West play a different style that sometimes gives the Penguins trouble.

The Kings, much like the Boston team that eliminated the Penguins from the playoffs in four games last spring, play an exceptionally physical, defensive-oriented game.

For the Penguins to win the Stanley Cup for the first time in five years, adapting to this style and beating teams like the Kings figures to be paramount.

“They've been an established team for a few years now,” Penguins defenseman Paul Martin said. “We don't see them often, but we know how good they are, and we know what to expect.”

The Penguins probably shouldn't expect too many quality scoring opportunities against the Kings. And if they arise, beating goaltender Jonathan Quick won't be a simple task.

Los Angeles leads the NHL with a 2.00 goals-against-average. After a significant injury, Quick is back in strong form.

“Falling behind against them is tough because they know how to close out games so well,” Martin said. “I've watched them and how they play. That's a big, physical hockey team — just a really, really good team.”

Since the Penguins and Kings last met, the Kings won the Stanley Cup for the first time. While not a high-scoring team, Los Angeles prefers to pound teams into submission with its physical play while slowing the game down to a crawl at times, a style that has benefited teams like Boston and New Jersey against the Penguins.

“They're a heavy team,” coach Dan Bylsma said of the Kings' physical play.

The Penguins are one of the NHL's smaller teams and believe beating Los Angeles will require a gritty effort.

“I'm interested in seeing how it goes,” Niskanen said. “They play playoff-style hockey all the time. It should be a good one.”

Note: Bylsma said Wednesday that center Zach Sill, recently demoted to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, will miss eight to 12 weeks because of a wrist injury.

Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @JoshYohe_Trib.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.



Show commenting policy

Most-Read Penguins

  1. Penguins trade Sutter to Canucks, sign free agent center Fehr
  2. Sutter: Staal effect felt on 3rd line with Penguins
  3. Rossi: ‘Hockey guy’ Sutter will be missed
  4. Pens assistant GM Fitzgerald leaves for Devils
  5. Reliving the moment a decade ago that shifted the Penguins' history
  6. New Pens winger Fehr ready for defense-first role
  7. Penguins to appear on national TV 18 times in 2015-16
  8. Russian winger Plotnikov could join Penguins in August
  9. Second-generation Loney sparkles in Penguins’ development camp scrimmage