It’s that time of the week again. Let’s clear out the notebook and start this week off fresh.
Here’s a random collection of thoughts we haven’t published yet from recent chats with LA Kings players…
Dustin Brown on what’s been the biggest improvement on the team’s powerplay this season
I think a big part of it is — and we started working on this early last year — we changed a lot of the ways we did things two years prior. With Todd coming in, he’s always had a really good power play wherever he’s gone. Last year really helped lay our foundation. Now we’re just adding elements to it, which are giving us more options, given our personnel. Juice is a one-man breakout, so that definitely helps get us set up.
On what Lias Andersson has brought to the team
Honestly, I didn’t really know much about him when we got him. But playing with him, he’s just a really smart player. He makes a lot of the little plays that maybe go on noticed, so it’s fun to play with him. He’s really good positionally and being a really good, smart player allows us to work well together. He always seems to be in the spot where I can give him the puck and get it back.
On making sure that missing players in practice and games doesn’t impact the long-term development of this team
I think it’s just ebbs and flows this year, quite honestly. It’s gonna happen — just like pretty much any other year with the injuries, but maybe it’s a little more common — you’ll have a guy pop out of the lineup for a week or two with the COVID protocols and everything that entails. I also think it’s a great time to be in this league. You’re gonna get some opportunities and some looks that maybe wouldn’t otherwise pop up for players. You have to be ready to play, every night, because you never know how quickly things can change from a morning skate to the afternoon. Some guys might be missing. It’s a little bigger group than we’re normally used to out on the ice every day, but you have to deal with it.
Adrian Kempe on coach Todd McLellan preaching ‘compete and intensity’
I think we’ve been practicing hard. I’ve been trying to clean up some stuff in the [defensive] zone. You don’t just want to play faster. [We] want to play with the puck as much as possible. Right now, lately, we’ve been floating around, waiting to see what the other team was gonna do with the puck. We haven’t really been engaging in battles and stuff down low, so that’s something we want to be better at. That comes with the start, as well. We have to be hungry when we get out there and want to win battles. We have to win more battles to win games. That’s something we’ve been working on.
Austin Wagner on the difficulty of sitting out games and then being thrust into second line duty, which comes with additional responsibility
When I was out for a little while, it gave me a chance to re-evaluate my games. The first game of the season, I didn’t think I played that great. Then, the second game, I came out and I was skating better. The third game, I didn’t play a great game. It gave me a chance to look back at what I need to do better. When I was out of the lineup, it gave me a chance to watch the games and watch other guys to see what I can improve upon. I think there’s more to my game now than just speed. I have to try using my speed still to the best of my abilities, but I’m just gonna do whatever I’m asked and play where I’m told. Just do my best. I think for me, again, everybody knows it’s speed for me and forechecking and whatnot. When I do that, I’m a successful player. I just need to get back to that. Get back to taking the puck to the net and getting hard on the forecheck. When I try to change my game, that’s not when I play my best. I know that. Just play my game – which is getting the puck and either driving it wider, putting the puck on net, or forechecking. I think when I’m using my speed and skating, and forechecking hard and creating turnovers, that’s when it makes it easier for everybody else.
On what he believes throws off his game at times and what he wants to do about it
Sometimes, it’s thinking too much, honestly. When I’m playing at the top of my game and playing at high speeds, it’s hard to be thinking through everything really quick. I just have to react off my instincts. I know the systems, I know the forecheck. I know everything, but I just have to keep using my speed. Like I said, just not thinking, just speeding the game up, just play hockey and use my instincts that I always have. When I start thinking too much, I don’t play as well.
Jeff Carter on when they’re playing a team like Vegas, do they try to emulate some of the things they do or is it still more about trying to get the Kings system put in place
I think we play different systems, but definitely – if you watch them, they play fast, hard hockey. They execute well, passing and whatnot. It’s one-touch, one-touch, and they’re gone, two-on-one. It makes you look fast and makes you play fast. We can definitely try and emulate their game, for sure. It’s something that we’ve talked about a lot, our execution and playing faster with the puck.
On which young players have particularly impressed him so far this season
Defensively, Mikey’s done a really good job. He’s played against some really tough competition, alongside Drew. I think he’s really stepped up for us and done a good job back there. And I’ve been really impressed with Grundy. He seems like he’s always on the puck, always winning battles. That’s what we need from him. He’s turned into a really good player for us so far.
Olli Maatta on the struggles he’s had fitting in thus far and even sitting out some games
Well, obviously, it’s not fun. You want to be playing. At the end of the day, having that time to watch the games, keeping an eye on trying to learn all the time, work on things, getting used to the system – just learning. It has to come naturally out there. I can’t be thanking too much. I just tried to make the best out of the time I had.
On the added added focus on intensity and compete level at practice lately
When the shot totals are so lopsided, I think we lost a lot of puck battles. I think that’s one of the biggest things, we want to play with the puck and it starts from those battles. You want to win those, then you get the puck and execute the play. It’s skill too — obviously, attitude is a battle-level, but it’s skill at the same time. I think recent practices had a really high intensity and we wanted to work on that.
On if coming into camp he thought he would have an easier time adapting to the Kings system
I sure did. Expectations were high coming in, but I definitely had a hard time just adjusting. It’s just thinking too much, that was the thing. I think just thinking too much out there. I have to just go out there and play. If you think, if you hesitate a little bit, even have a second, that’s gonna cost you a lot of times. I think it’s about me finding my own game. I want to contribute and be a big part of this team. That’s the way I’m going to do it, just working and focusing on that. I think when I do that, I make other players around me better, give them more time. So I think that’s the biggest focus for me right now.
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Lead image via Getty Images / LA Kings
Some quotes may have been slightly edited for brevity and/or clarity.