Penguins Currently Unstoppable at Home & Will Crown Kings

Matthew Jordan

Wednesday, February 14, 2018 6:50 PM UTC

Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018 6:50 PM UTC

It’s two of the dominant NHL franchises this decade squaring off in the marquee matchup Thursday night as Los Angeles visits Pittsburgh in a possible Cup preview.

Los Angeles Kings at Pittsburgh Penguins Free NHL Pick: PenguinsBest Line Offered: BetOnline

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A total of 11 games on Thursday’s NHL schedule, but one clearly stands out as Los Angeles makes its only visit of the season to Pittsburgh. If there’s a title for Team of the Decade, the Kings and Penguins are battling the Chicago Blackhawks for that honor. Chicago has the most Stanley Cup titles with three, but the current Hawks are likely to miss the playoffs. Los Angeles and Pittsburgh have combined for four of the past six Stanley Cups – and it’s very possible they face off this June. The franchises have never met in the playoffs.

Pittsburgh goes for the regular-season sweep as it won in Los Angeles on Jan. 18, 3-1 – more impressive in that it was the second of a back-to-back for the Pens after losing across town in Anaheim the night before. Patric Hornqvist had two goals vs. L.A., and Evgeni Malkin had the other. Rookie Casey DeSmith was in net. Adrian Kempe scored and Jonathan Quick made 28 saves for the Kings, who were badly slumping at the time.

The road team has won seven of the past 10 in the series.

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Phaneuf Boosts L.A. Blueline

The Kings are expected to debut their newest player Thursday in defenseman Dion Phaneuf. He was acquired from Ottawa on Tuesday along with forward Nate Thompson in exchange for winger Marian Gaborik and center Nick Shore. The Senators are retaining 25 percent of Phaneuf's $7 million salary-cap hit, but Ottawa will actually save money in this deal overall.

Gaborik had largely been a bust in L.A. and had just 14 points this season. Phaneuf is a three-time All-Star who isn’t quite that player any longer but is still a top-four blueliner. He had three goals and 13 assists in 53 games for Ottawa in 20:15 of ice time per night. Phaneuf is considered a terrific leader and physical presence who has played in 51 career playoff games. This should kick off a busy trade period, with the deadline Feb. 26.

The Kings had to do something as they are battling for a wild-card spot. They are also on perhaps a season-defining seven-game road trip and were bombed 7-3 at a bad Carolina team on Tuesday – the trade was actually made during the game. The Kings won’t even have to buy Phaneuf a plane ticket because his Senators were in Pittsburgh on Tuesday night when he was pulled off the ice and told of the deal.

Los Angeles will get back winger Dustin Brown from a one-game suspension for this one. He was penalized for kneeing Tampa Bay’s Mikhail Sergachev on Saturday. Brown is third on the team with 38 points (16 goals, 22 assists) and leads the team with a plus/minus of plus-25 that’s among the league leaders.

The surging Penguins have almost caught Washington for the Metropolitan Division lead. Pittsburgh won for the seventh time in nine games Tuesday, 6-3 over those Senators. Rookie Zach Aston-Reese was the No. 1 star by scoring his first two career goals, becoming is the eighth player to score the first goal of his NHL career this season and do it with a multiple-goal game. Jake Guentzel also scored twice, Malkin scored his 31st goal (second in NHL) and Sidney Crosby, who scored his 400th career goal Sunday, finished with three assists. Matt Murray made 30 saves and is 5-0-1 in his last six appearances.

Pittsburgh has won nine straight home games, its longest streak at home since a franchise-record 13-game streak from Nov. 15, 2013 to Jan. 15, 2014. The Kings, meanwhile, have won just three of their past 12 vs. teams with a winning record. L.A. will get a mini-boost from Phaneuf but also is playing its fourth game in six nights. Take the Penguins for Thursday’s NHL pick.

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