Through 18 games played in 2021, the Kings have already faced the Wild five times, more than any other team on their schedule. They’ll add two more logs to the fire in Minnesota this weekend with a pair of back-to-back games beginning Friday.
Not only will LA be putting their six-game winning streak on the line, they’ll be facing a team they’ll most likely need to leapfrog in the standings if they’re serious about wanting to lock down a playoff spot in the West Division. Coming into things, the Kings are 2-1-2 vs. the Wild this season.
Side note, tonight the Kings wear their regular road jerseys. For the rematch on Saturday, LA will go with the Reverse Retro jerseys, as will the Wild. It’s the only time this season the Kings are scheduled to play in a double Reverse Retro game.
Based upon what they were showing at morning skate (and additional intel), things are shaping up as:
LA Kings projected lineup for Game 19 vs. the Wild
Iafallo – Kopitar – Brown
Kempe – Vilardi – Carter
Grundstrom – Lizotte – Moore
Athanasiou – Amadio – Wagner
Anderson – Doughty
Bjornfot – Roy
Maatta – Walker
Other players available:
Martin Frk (IR)
Jaret Anderson-Dolan (IR)
Current taxi squad listed as – Austin Strand, Rasmus Kupari, Lias Andersson, Drake Rymsha, Boko Imama, and Troy Grosenick.
This article will be updated with quotes from Todd McLellan following his morning media scrum.
On what has improved in Olli Maatta’s game over the past five games
First of all, his confidence is back and that makes a huge difference. Secondly, I think he has a better understanding of where we’re gonna be on the ice at certain times, so I always use that word ‘structure’ – he gets it more now. The game can be a little more predictable for him. He has his legs underneath him, he’s not on the ice as much, his passes are crisper and cleaner. All of that goes back to being predictable and having some confidence, so he’s come full circle and he’s become a real valuable player for us.
On where he fits into the lineup moving forward?
As the year goes on, we’ll move people around just because we have to. It’s such an unpredictable season away from the rink that you never know. We’re really happy with him in the three hole on the left side, it allowed the kids to play a little bit and he was a real good supporting player there. Now, with Mikey being out with his injury — he should be back pretty soon — as time goes on here, we’ll shuffle guys around and we’ll see where he ends up.
On how much better Bjornfot is now with a year of experience under his belt
He’s come a significant distance. Is he a better skater, better passer, better shooter? I think all those things improve with age and time. He has a much better understanding of what it’s like to play in North America full-time. He’s run through the league – the buildings aren’t new to him, the flights aren’t new, the coaching staff isn’t new. So he’s been able to take his learning experience from last year, grow on it, and now come back and give us some some real good nights.
On if the gap between his worst game and best game is pretty narrow
That’s accurate, but it’s also sometimes an indication of there is still going to be more there. The bottom sticks with the top is what you’re saying, and the gap just stays that big. But let’s make sure that the top is getting pushed, you develop, and you evolve into a better player. There’s no problem with Toby there. He wants to learn and he’s a real student of the game; he works hard at it. He’s going to continue to push the ceiling up higher. If the floor comes with it, then we have a real consistent player.
On if it’s harder or easier to sit a goaltender when you have two guys playing well
It’s never easy to tell one guy he’s not playing. It doesn’t matter if they’re hot or cold, they put the equipment on and they want to play, they want to participate. It’s a pretty lonely job being the backup goaltender. Everybody has a chance to contribute to the win, other than you on some given nights. Now, there are things you can do away from the ice – be it on the bench or in the locker room. They’re both playing well, we know that they’re both important. As much as some of our media people wanted to stir some stuff up with the goaltenders early, we understood that they were both going to be important. They’re both very capable of playing and they’re both going to play a lot. When you explain it to them that way, they understand it a lot more clearer than maybe the outside world would like it to be. I guess there’s a lesson for all of us there, just clarify what we need to clarify within our walls and don’t worry about what’s happening outside these walls.
On clarifying his earlier comments about the status of Mikey Anderson for tonight
Our guys are just getting off the skate right now. He’s that close, there’s a real good chance he’ll be in tonight. The decision that we have to make — and that he and the training staff have to make — is, if he goes in, can he finish the night? We’re talking about playing six periods in a 24-hour timeframe. At the back end of an 11-day road trip, you need fresh bodies. They have to be fresh physically and mentally. I think the mental part he’ll have, but if he goes in and can’t finish because he takes a big hit, and he’s out three minutes into the game, it not only hurts us for today, but it also affects us tomorrow. Long explanation for how we’ll make that decision. I can’t give the answer now, we’ll find out at game time.
On wanting to rotate players in who have been idle for a week or so, including Kupari and Luff
We’d like to have them playing every night. I guess that’s the right answer. The fact is, on this type of road trip, we had to end up with five or six players on the taxi squad. We wanted to only carry four there, for that simple reason, that somebody else would be playing somewhere else. On this road trip, it was so long — and when we lost JAD we had to bring another one in. We’ll get through these games with whatever the lineup is. We then go home and we don’t have another road trip throughout the season that’s this long. There was nowhere for them to play this week anyhow. Our minor league team was off for a week. It’s unfortunate, but that’s just the way it is.
McLellan indicated Kupari won't play tonight.
Reading between the lines, think Andersson will get to play with Ontario Reign next Wednesday vs. Gulls.
Full quotes coming to MM shortly.
— John Hoven | The Mayor (@mayorNHL) February 26, 2021
On preparing for a Wild team that they’ve already seen five times this season
When you get this deep into a series, surprises are limited. Everybody’s kind of shot all their bullets, if you will, as far as adjustments and whatnot. That doesn’t mean things can’t change. From the time that we played them in this building to the last, they’ve made a few changes that have made them quite effective. We have to be prepared to react to that and and make sure that we’re prepared for it.
On areas the Kings have improved in during this winning streak
Our starts; we’ve been able to score first, which allows you to be confident. We’re a hard team to play against sometimes when we have the lead because we’re committed to checking right now and doing the things that we need to do. So getting the lead is obviously important for us. Goaltending — our game is full of mistakes as it will be the whole season, we’re just trying to diminish the number from night to night, and work on certain areas — but when you make mistakes and your goaltenders are there, it makes the whole group look good. Confidence is important. Special teams, there are often nights where you can win or lose on special teams alone. There haven’t been many nights — I think there has only been two of our first 19 or 20 games where we’ve ended up on the negative side of special teams. We definitely couldn’t say that the first 20 games last year, so that’s come a long way, as well.
On some of those changes he mentioned about the Wild
Their neutral zone play is a little bit different than it was the first time we were in here and they’re very effective with it. Their personnel, the way they play them now is a little bit different. I think they’re a tremendous team. I don’t think they get enough respect, maybe it’s because we’ve played them five times already we know how effective they are. The game in LA, they were coming off covid, they didn’t have practice time, and they played with a number of quality youngsters, but they’re just not ready to go. We got the better of them that night. This will be a different test for us tonight, it’ll be interesting to see where we’re at with it.
ADDITIONAL PREGAME COVERAGE:
Also be sure to check out an all new Kings Of The Podcast episode that was just released. It’s packed with a myriad of LA tidbits and breaking news items – including notes on Byfield, Bjornfot, and Iafallo you won’t find elsewhere.
With the Kings and Wild playing for the sixth time this season, and LA being on a hot streak, the odds are expected to be favorable for keeping their winning streak alive. Betting lines for today’s game and tomorrow’s rematch are expected to be live now and might vary from site to site, so if you want to take advantage of the opening line, we recommend going through this list of legal sites within the U.S. to get the most bang for your buck!
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