Preview Professor: Hats Off for Wayne

Professor bannerThis week in California Kings history, Wayne Gretzky scored his 45th career hat trick in a 6-2 win over the Blackhawks on 12 February 1989. His first goal in that game was his fortieth tally of the season and established a new NHL record. As a result, Gretzky became the first player in league history to score 40 or more goals in each of his 10 seasons (he would later extend this to 12), eclipsing Mike Bossy who sent the benchmark at nine campaigns.  The Great One ended up finishing his inaugural season in Los Angeles with 54 goals and 114 assists.

Los Angeles Kings Wayne Gretzky

Los Angeles Kings at Boston Bruins, 4:00PM

2015-16 Season Records: LAK 31-17-3 (1st in the Pacific); BOS 28-18-6 (3rd in the Atlantic)

Leading Scorers: Anze Kopitar (13G, 33A); Patrice Bergeron (19G, 26A)

Milan Lucic has certainly been gearing up for his return to Boston. In his last four games he has picked up 24 penalty minutes, which represents more than a third of his season total in that category. In his eight seasons in a Bruins uniform, Lucic failed to register points in six career meetings against the Kings in Boston, which of course means absolutely nothing for tonight’s game. It should be an triumphant return for the fan favourite who was an integral part of the Bruins’ Stanley Cup in 2011.

Prediction: Kings by 1

Edmonton Oilers at New Jersey Devils, 4:00PM

2015-16 Season Records: EDM 21-28-5 (7th in the Pacific); NJD 26-21-7 (5th in the Metropolitan)

Leading Scorers: Taylor Hall (18G, 32A); Lee Stempniak (15G, 24A)

Finally, the matchup we’ve all been looking forward to, Connor McDavid versus Lee Stempniak. Wait, what? The latter remains one of the most interesting stories of the season, in my opinion. After playing for four teams in the past two seasons and joining the Devils at the start of the year on a PTO, Stempniak now leads the team in points and has been an instrumental part of New Jersey’s inexplicable success. Meanwhile, since returning from injury, Connor McDavid has been playing like a man 19-year-old possessed. He’s been breaking ankles and has racked up 6 points in his first four games since 3 November 2015.

Prediction: Oilers by 1

Anaheim Ducks at Philadelphia Flyers, 4:00PM

2015-16 Season Records: ANA 25-19-17 (3rd in the Pacific); PHI 23-19-9 (7th in the Metropolitan)

Leading Scorers: Corey Perry (21G, 15A); Claude Giroux (16G, 28A)

Here come the Ducks! Anaheim is 8-2-0 in their last ten and are just one loss removed from a six game win streak. However, with the exception of the Oilers and Flames they are the worst road team in the Pacific. That being said, historically the Ducks have fared well in Philadelphia and have not lost in the Wachovia Center Wells Fargo Center since 2 February 2008.

Prediction: Ducks by 1

San Jose Sharks at Chicago Blackhawks, 5:30PM

2015-16 Season Records: SJS 27-20-4 (2nd in the Pacific); CHI 36-16-4 (1st in the Central)

Leading Scorers: Joe Pavelski (25G, 26A); Patrick Kane (32G, 44A)

This will be the third and final meeting this season between the Sharks and Blackhawks. Chicago took the first two matchups and will be looking for the sweep over San Jose. Keep an eye on Jonathan Toews tonight, in twenty-eight regular season meetings against the Sharks he has 13 goals and 13 assists.

Prediction: Blackhawks by 1

Vancouver Canucks at Colorado Avalanche, 6:00PM

2015-16 Season Records: VAN 20-20-12 (5th in the Pacific); COL 27-24-4 (5th in the Central)

Leading Scorers: Daniel Sedin (21G, 23A); Nathan MacKinnon (18G, 25A)

There’s really not much else to say. In league-wide standings, there are only six teams currently below Vancouver. That motley crew includes Calgary, Winnipeg, Buffalo, Toronto, Edmonton, and Columbus. Of that bunch, only the Leafs and Edmonton, unsurprisingly, have fewer regulation wins than the Canucks.

Prediction: Avalanche by 1

Toronto Maple Leafs at Calgary Flames, 6:00PM

2015-16 Season Records: TOR 19-23-9 (8th in the Atlantic); CGY 23-25-3 (6th in the Pacific)

Leading Scorers: Leo Komarov (17G, 16A); Johnny Gaudreau (21G, 28A)

There is no better kindling than dry leaves. Since the 2004-05 lockout, Toronto has gone 1-6-0 in Calgary. In those five most recent meetings, the Flames have burnt the Leafs for four wins with a +10 goal differential. Nothing to see here folks, this is right around the time in the season when Toronto starts to…


flame out.

Prediction: Calgary by 1

Last Minute of Play

At the time, Gretzky’s 45th hat trick was good enough for the all-time leader board, but he added five more for good measure. His fifty career hat tricks are an NHL benchmark, just one of the sixty-one league records he holds or shares. Among active players, Jaromir Jagr has the most with 15, which shouldn’t astonish you since he’s been playing in the National Hockey League for the better part of a quarter-century. What may surprise you is that Marian Gaborik is second on that list with 14 under his belt. Interestingly, the last time he registered a hat trick was on 23 January 2013 against the Boston Bruins.

Two Minutes for Delay of Game

The Kings are 7-11-1-0 all-time when playing on February 9th. In those nineteen games, Los Angeles has a -16 goal differential.

Preview Prediction Record: 25-18

Professor Mike hails from Sudbury, Ontario (4 hours north of Toronto) a place that has more Kings connections than you’d think. The city’s northern boundary reaches as far as the community of Levack, hometown of Kings great Dave Taylor. As a child, Mike once met Taylor in a gravel pit, as you can imagine, he was thoroughly impressed. He has also spent more than a few bleary-eyed nights at the Beef n Bird, a tavern founded by Justin Williams’ great uncle Jerry Toppazzini. Mike’s only wish is that one day people will call him “the Professor” with the same adoration bestowed upon Ben Scrivens. You can follow Mike Commito on Twitter @MikeCommito.