Quotes from LA Kings coach Todd McLellan on Monday, January 11 – following a rather eventful 24 hours…
On what he was able to take away from Saturday’s scrimmage
We were able to take video from the game and break it down on Sunday, look at areas where – one, we were strong and and two, where we needed a little bit of work. We applied some of those things to practice today, and there is still a lot of work [to do] on power play and penalty kill. I think that will be a big part of success and failure throughout the the season, for all teams, not just the LA Kings. So we spent a lot of time there. There are still areas of our game that we have to get to and we have a couple more days to do that. It’s it’s a lot for new players to take in and comprehend. I see the veteran players in a good spot with most of it.
On if it’s still fair to assume that he would prefer to have players on the opening night roster that have been with the organization for more than two weeks (i.e. having already spent some time learning the systems)
There’s two different parts of that. When you talk about young and new to the organization, you can talk about the juniors that just jumped in today; they’ve got a lot to grab and it may be unfair to them, or us, to throw them in right away. Give them a few more skates and then see where we go. New faces, over and above that, whether it’s Athanasiou and Lias Andersson, he’s been here since the beginning of camp, [or] faces from the American League last year, we feel comfortable with those guys. Once we determine who is available to us, and that may not even happen until Thursday, then we’ll we’ll pick the lineup for day one. We’ll play for 60 or 65 minutes, whatever it takes, and reload the following day.
On if Tobias Bjornfot comes with a different comfort level than Byfield or Kaliyev because he’s played one year in the organization and system already?
Certainly he does. He’s more comfortable with us, he knows his environment, he knows where he’s going in the locker room. A lot of his teammates he understands. I would think from a comfort level, he is further ahead than the others. He plays a different position than the others that just entered, so he’s not necessarily competing with the younger players. He’s competing with ones that have been here in training camp for two weeks now. I see it in him – it’s hard to believe they’re all relatively the same age because Toby does carry himself like he has been around for a year. And he certainly has, so good for him.
On the status of Martin Frk
I don’t see Turcotte or Marty being available on opening night.
On when Frk was injured
He was injured during the [scrimmage] on Saturday.
On the status of Sean Walker, Kurtis MacDermid, and Cal Peterson
They’re unfit to play right now. I don’t know when they will be fit. As soon as they are fit, they’re going to play, they’re important pieces to our team. Right now, they’re unfit to practice or be around our team. When that changes, there are people in different positions than me that will give me that information and we’ll take it from there.
On how he would assess the job that his staff has done to prepare for the coming season and if there has been any discussion with players regarding what to do, what not to do
Well, the the first part of your question, as far as pulling training camp off, our people have done a an outstanding job. I’m not talking about the coaches, there’s so many more people involved in in the organization. Chris Kingsley, first of all, as the the medical trainer, to position us so that we can do what we want to do each and every day, the doctors, the equipment staff, the cleaning staff in our building, and facility security, you name it – there are so many things that go into us just getting on the ice.
And then over and above that, the players have been really good. They’re taking care of each other. There hasn’t been a lot of awareness when it comes to the pandemic. Everybody is taking care of each other and it’s really nice to see. I think there’s a sense of team building when it comes to that. Have we given them direction? Yes, they need direction. They need to know when they’re supposed to test, where they’re supposed to go to do it, how they do it, what it’s going to be like to come to Staples Center on Thursday, we went through that on Saturday. We’ve talked about, potentially what some other pro teams have discovered regarding some problems that exist, whether it’s basketball, football, baseball, when they started, what led to problems within the organization, with the pandemic. So we mentioned some things to them about that, just so they can be aware of it. But our guys really have done a good job. When you think of how severe the germ is right now, I’m proud of what our group has done up until this point.
On if there is a minimum amount of time, per protocol, that the five missing players will be unavailable
One of the things that I’ve decided is that I’m not going to really get overly involved in the days, the testing, and all that type of stuff. I’m going to sit there and worry about what we’re doing on the ice, and have experts come and tell me on a daily basis, ‘This guy’s available, this guy isn’t.’ I would probably give you the wrong information if I began to guess, so I’ll just listen to the experts. Whatever they tell us to do, we’ll do.
On his familiarity with goaltender Troy Grosenick
Going back to my San Jose days, I was there when he played his first game in Carolina. Our team was not very good that night, the goaltender was outstanding. I recall him being first star and his parents were at the game. I almost think it was a shutout. If it wasn’t, it was 50-save night. He was really good. He didn’t spend a lot of time with us, with the Sharks, he was in the AHL a little bit more. But, mature, solid goaltender, knows where he’s at, there’s no nerves or anxiousness coming into a pro camp. He’s a perfect number three right now.
On the fitness level of the three WJC kids who joined the camp today
They fit well in practice today. They weren’t dragging their butts, they weren’t behind anything. I don’t see any issues with fitness or conditioning. The pace always goes up a little bit when you get to the NHL level. We had a practice with a fair amount of tempo in it today. They fit in really well. We have to keep in mind that these guys haven’t played in five or six days now. That is a long time for a hockey player to be off during the season without any type of activity. I’m sure their legs probably didn’t feel as good as they did seven days ago, when they were playing in gold medal games, but by tomorrow they should be up and running and feel real good.
On if this has been more hectic than trying to ramp back up after the most recent lockout
That was quite a few years ago now. As we were coming out of some of those lockouts, teams were maybe in a different situation, maybe a little more mature and had been together as a group longer than one year. In our situation here in LA, coaches and players, it’s only been 70 games together. So we’re still figuring each other out, but I feel good with the veterans, and their understanding of how and why. The new players are coming along quickly, which is nice. The oddness of it is that there aren’t any exhibition games to to evaluate on. We just keep playing against each other in scrimmage situations, practice situations. It’s hard with video to to get their attention, to go to one spot, when all the players look familiar. But we’ve been able to do it and we’re no different than any other team in the league.
On the energy level today, coming after an off day
It was good. I think they’re excited, they’re anxious to get playing again, and probably getting tired of practicing. The off day usually does wonders, guys come back hungry, they’re more attentive. They’re often ragged at practice to start, passes are off a little bit, but within 10-15 minutes, they’re going. Our guys did that, they were clean by the end and had a lot of energy today, which is a good sign.
On if he feels that tomorrow will be the day where everything starts to separate
It almost feels like we’ve separated already, but the influx of different players is taking us back. I don’t know if I answered that question properly, but it feels like we had separation, and now we’re bringing new and younger players back in and having to get them up to speed. We all know what Thursday stands for. We all know there’s a important game coming up, and many games coming up. There’s an excitement that you can feel building towards that. Clarifying who will be playing and who will be playing with who, I think players want that in advance, but because of the strange season we may not have that. We may just have to react.
On if they’ll be able to communicate that information internally tomorrow, to help get players ready
We’re trying to do that now. Again, there are different scenarios. There’s this scenario of everybody’s available, here’s probably what it’s going to look like. What happens if we get these guys back, what happens if we only get one back, too many situations, too many variables to lay it all out. We’ve tried to keep guys in pairs together as much as we possibly can. I think those groups are comfortable, but as I mentioned we’re not going to be the only team that’s going through this. We better be able to gel and change on the fly quickly.
On how Mark Alt fits in and if he’s comfortable with his pairing with Kale Clauge
I think any pairing we’re comfortable with right now. If you’re one of the eight or nine that are in consideration, we feel comfortable about all of them. The one thing that Alt has is some experience in the league, a low panic point, he defends fairly well, he’s been used to playing, and being in the National League or going up and down. His experience gives him some cache with the group. I’ve found him to be very coachable and asking some important questions. That lends a little confidence to the situation, as well.
On the prospects who played on Saturday but didn’t skate at practice today, have any of them been deemed unfit to play or were they all just reassigned (i.e. joining Ontario for camp)
They are still part of our camp, they’re just working in a different group. I believe we’re still in the NHL training camp mode, for the most part. I think we had a goaltender that was deemed unfit to practice or to play, from the B group or the non-NHL group right now.
On if the World Juniors was enough to give him a read on any improvements Arthur Kaliyev may have made
I think it helps. I see a better skater, if I compare last year’s World Juniors to this year. I see stronger, fitter, a better engine, something that goes a little longer at high-end. The shot, the ability to shoot, the ability to score is his calling card. It always has been and that continues to be good. As the World Junior tournament built, he got better and created opportunities for his teammates with forechecks, knocking people off the pucks, protecting it. His his work away from the puck has improved, where he understands the importance of it. So, I would say that he has improved, just on the U.S. viewings at the World Juniors.
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