Today the Kings put the final touches on plans for their split squad games against the Phoenix Coyotes tomorrow night – with each team hosting the other to kick off the 2011 pre-season.
LA’s ‘travel’ team left for Arizona following the morning skate. Then, the ‘hone’ roster participated in their set of drills. You can view the full line-ups for both Kings’ squads here.
We’ll have more full length articles up later tonight. However, knowing that some of you just want the highlights – here are the 10 tidbits you need to know…
* Simon Gagne was off ice today, due to a case of the flu. Unlike Justin Williams who returned after 24 hours from ‘flu like symptoms,’ it was announced Gagne will miss tomorrow night’s game vs. Phoenix. This also led to some roster shuffling, as Brad Richardson will now stay behind (instead of travel with the group heading to Phoenix). Richardson will take Gagne’s spot on a line with Mike Richards and Dustin Brown. So far, Gagne says he’s liked what he’s seen in LA. Cam Paddock, a camp invitee, took Richardson’s spot on with the other squad.
* Coach Terry Murray said the plan is to have Jonathan Bernier play 40 minutes in Phoenix and then be relieved by Jeff Zatkoff for the final period. In LA, Jonathan Quick will start and Martin Jones will play the final 20 minutes.
* Coach Terry Murray again confirmed that Anze Kopitar is 100% healthy. In fact, he said he has no plans to limit Kopitar’s minutes in the first game – instead, saying he plans on pushing him hard. Kopitar, playing on the top line in Phoenix with Dustin Penner and Justin Williams had this to say after practice today – “Hopefully we’ll stay together for a longer period of time (than last year) and not have to deal with all the line changes . But, with Terry, you never know.” He also said Penner “has more endurance and is in good shape.”
* Same can be said for Scott Parse – no holding back, push him hard. Parse will be playing on a line with Kyle Clifford and Jarret Stoll. It will be Stoll’s first game with his new visor – something he plans to keep on all year and reports he doesn’t even notice it’s there anymore, after skating with it all summer.
* Kevin Westgarth on the possibility of meeting up with Paul Bissonnette (aka Biz Nasty) tomorrow night in Phoenix – “What a great way to get the season going if he’s in Phoenix!” – note: the Coyotes haven’t announced their ‘home’ roster yet – but, for the back story, read this article
* Westgarth is playing on a line with Justin Azevedo and Rich Clune, who has been known to stir things up on the ice. Westarth said – “We’re looking to buzz pretty good. Whatever happens – if we’re causing some havoc tomorrow night and they want to do something about it, we’re more than willing to respond.”
* Tyler Toffoli will play his first ever NHL pre-season game tomorrow night in Phoenix. He’ll be on a line with Ethan Moreau and Trevor Lewis. Toffoli says he first met Moreau when he was training here in LA earlier this summer – before Moreau had even signed with the Kings. Really appreciated the veteran leader’s approach to helping out the young guys – thus, he was very happy when he later learned Moreau signed in LA.
* Andrei Loktionov, who will be skating with the Kings team playing at Staples Center, laid out the basic plan for his line – Jordan Nolan’s job is to create space, he makes the passes and Trent Hunter needs to score the goals. Loktionov also wanted no part of discussing the possibility of him being sent back to Manchester this season – saying he REALLY wants to make the Kings big club.
* Murray will coach the game in LA, while one of the assistant coaches – presumably John Stevens – will be in charge over in Arizona.
* Former Kings forward Patrick O’Sullivan was part of the contingent that came to California with the Coyotes today, as was Brett Hextall (son of Ron). Both will play tonight in Anaheim vs. the Ducks and are believed to be scheduled for tomorrow’s game at Staples Center as well. We’ll have an interview with Brett posted in the morning.