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NHL: Boston Bruins @ Los Angeles Kings Preview

After winning 2-1 in the Winter Classic at Fenway Park, the NHL leading Boston Bruins will head back inside on Friday as they travel to Arena to face-off against the Los Angeles Kings.

With victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the NHL's showcase event, the Bruins improved to 29-4-4 which includes a road record of 10-4-1. 

Without defeat in their past 11 away games, the Bruins are -155 to be victorious against the Kings.    

The hosting Kings have a 21-13-6 overall record which ranks second in the Pacific Division and four points behind the leading Vegas Golden Knights. 

11-6-2 at home, Los Angeles are +135 to beat the Bruins and +375 to end the season top of the Pacific.   

No let-up in Bruins

The Bruins went out of last season's playoffs at the first-round stage to the Carolina Hurricanes over seven games. 

In the series, they won all three home games but were beaten each time on the road, making the race to finish top of the NHL standings and gain home ice advantage throughout the playoffs an important one.   

Boston are -105 to win the Presidents' Trophy awarded to the team with the best regular season record and +625 to win the Stanley Cup for the first time since 2011.   

The early exit last season cost coach Bruce Cassidy his job and he was replaced by Jim Montgomery who has worked wonders helping the Bruins become the second-highest scoring team in the league, averaging 3.73 goals per-game and the best defensive side, conceding an average of just 2.16 goals per game.   

Boston also have the best penalty kill in the NHL at 85.1% and the sixth hottest powerplay, successfully converting 27% of opportunities.   

After being fired by Dallas Stars in 2020 for issues surrounding alcoholism, 53-year-old Montgomery is certainly making the most of his second chance as an NHL head coach and is +200 to win the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year.

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McLellan has Kings firing

55-year-old Todd McLellan was hired by the Kings in 2019 and missed the playoffs twice before last season saw a drastic upturn in their form.    

After pushing the much-fancied Edmonton Oilers to a Game 7, the Kings came into the new campaign high in optimism and despite some major goaltending problems in the early going, McLellan has again managed to lead the Kings to a lofty position in the Pacific Division and 7-2-1 in their last 10 games. 

+1800 to win the Jack Adams Award, McLellan has helped 23-year-old Gabriel Vilardi thrive in his first full NHL season and the first-round, 11th overall pick of the Kings in 2017 leads the team with 16 goals in 40 games.   

His production, along with point-leader Kevin Fiala (39; 10 goals, 29 assists) has bolstered the Kings attack and they rank 16th in the league with an average of 3.20 goals per-game which is up from 2.87 last season.

Copley to the rescue

McLellan is thankful for the Kings' improved offence which has compensated for a jump at the opposite end where his side have conceded an average of 3.39 goals per-game (23rd) compared to 2.83 last season.   

Much of that has been due to well-below par goaltending which has seen Cal Petersen demoted to the AHL and two-time Stanley Cup Champion Jonathan Quick lose the starting role to Pheonix Copley who began the season as third choice.   

Career back-up Copley, 30, was signed on a one-year contract from the Washington Capitals in the off-season and has won nine of 10 starts with a .908 save percentage and 2.52 goals against average (GAA).   

Quick, 36, is 8-9-4 over 22 starts this season with a .884 save percentage and 3.40 GAA and will most likely be forced to sit on the bench again with Copley given the task of trying to keep out David Pastrnak (50 points; 25 goals, 25 assists) and the rest of Boston's potent attack.

Ullmark aiming for Vezina 

In contrast to the Kings, the Bruins have enjoyed excellent goaltending, particularly from Linus Ullmark who has convincingly won the number-one role ahead of the ever-developing Jeremy Swayman.   

Ullmark, 29, leads the NHL with 21 wins (from 24 starts) and his .939 save percentage and 1.86 GAA is also the best of all goalies.   

In his second season with the Bruins, Ullmark is in prime position to deliver on his +200 odds to win the Vezina Trophy as the league's best goaltender.    

When he hasn't started, 25-year-old Swayman has provided the Bruins opportunity to win too, going 7-3-3 with a .897 save percentage and 2.68 GAA.  

Kings confidence

Boston have lost just three times at home this season with one of those coming at the hands of Copley and the Kings 2-3 in a shoot-out on December 15th. 

The result will give the Kings major confidence that they can pull of another upset, and if Copley can again perform the heroics of that night (.943 save percentage) there's no reason why they can't do it again, especially with home ice advantage.

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