Check your glass to see if it’s half full or half empty. Optimists will view last night’s game as the first point LA has earned in the month of February (and perhaps the best game Gabe Vilardi has played this season). Conversely, naysayers will likely note it was the Kings fifth loss in a row and perhaps be more worried about a potential injury to Drew Doughty.
Let’s start with an update on the latter situation.
Tad more – doesn't sound like Doughty will skate at 11am practice today.
However, no determination yet if he'll play tomorrow night vs SJ. Told they'll wait until Thursday morning skate to evaluate situation further.
Stay tuned. https://t.co/WIyC3NBil7
— John Hoven | The Mayor (@mayorNHL) February 10, 2021
Prior to the Kings taking to the ice for practice on Wednesday morning, there was another round of the familiar roster shuffling. Lias Andersson, Tobias Bjornfot, and Austin Strand were placed on the taxi squad (this is more paper shuffling than anything else and any/all could be back in the NHL lineup Thursday night for the rematch with San Jose). Of more consequence and meaning was Mark Alt, Markus Phillips, and Boko Imama being assigned to AHL Ontario. That makes all three of them at least eligible for the big Reign-Gulls game later tonight in Irvine.
As for the Kings, coach Todd McLellan had commented after the game on Tuesday that he liked the pairing of Jeff Carter and Gabe Vilardi. That’s something to keep an eye on heading into the next game.
On the good news front, Matt Roy returned to the ice today, sporting a red / non-contact jersey. This is the first step toward playing again, yet indicates he is still likely a week or two away from seeing game action.
LA Kings practice groups – Wednesday, February 10
Forwards: Amadio, Anderson-Dolan, Andersson, Brown, Carter, Grundstrom, Iafallo, Kempe, Kopitar, Luff, Moore, Vilardi and Wagner
Defensemen: Anderson, Bjornfot, Clague, Maatta, MacDermid, Roy, Strand
Goaltenders: Quick, Petersen, Ingham
NOTE: This article will be updated with additional notes and quotes following McLellan’s media scrum later this morning.
McLellan on Austin Strand
For an inexperienced player, he seems to have a high level of poise. What that means is his panic point is fairly low, he puts himself in pretty good situations to have simple success. He’s not overplaying his position or his role. He’s defended, perhaps better than than we thought he might when he came up. As a result, he’s become a pretty steady defenseman back there. It’s always the old cliche when individuals get hurt or they miss a game for whatever reason, it’s an opportunity for somebody to step up or be found. Perhaps we’ve done that or he’s done that in that situation.
On if there a certain amount of time, compared to the entire game plan, that he spends on the start of a game
It’s mentioned. You like to have certain players out in that situation. I think that line of questioning is our first period as a whole, it’s not necessarily the first shift; although it was last night. We tend to wade into games right now instead of take the game to the other team. We’re resilient, we don’t quit, we don’t roll over. All those qualities are good, but we rely or use them way too much. I thought last night that they were much more engaged early than we were, for whatever reason. As a result, we took a lot of blows. We never went down, but it takes a lot of energy and a lot of confidence out of the team, a lot of work just to get back to even. We do talk about starts. We talk about establishing a direct game, but it has to be put into play. Words are sometimes cheap. We haven’t done a real good job of it this year, so it’s something we’d obviously like to improve on.
On Matt Roy participating in practice today
He was wearing a non-contact jersey, but there were still some gentle battles — if you want to call it that — that he got involved in; body positioning and stuff like that. I talked to him after and he was excited and happy to be out there with his teammates. I think that’s sparked a little life in us as a team right now and we can always use that. All indications are that he’s going to keep working and get through it. The cancellation of the game against Minnesota is going to help our team get healthier. Hopefully by next week we have some healthy bodies to inject into the lineup. Today was the the first day he skated. [Also, Sean Walker] is in great spirits, doing really well, training off the ice. There’s a good chance we’ll see him skate either on his own or with the group here in the next day or two.
On the Kings being fifth overall in penalty kill, what’s working
Goaltending, to begin with. They’ve made some really good saves. The familiarity of partners and pairs, structure, that always helps. Penalty kill has to be somewhat predictable, so that you know where it’s going next. I think we’ve done a way better job of that this season than last season. Overall, the kill has been good. It’s interesting, before the the game yesterday I was looking at the stats and seven of the top eight penalty kill units came from our Conference or Division, whatever it’s called. That just goes to show how good the PKs are out here and how tough it is to be a power play in our division right now. Credit to all the teams, but we’re really happy with where we’re at.
On last night’s comment, where he said the first goal is what beat the Kings
It’s happened before too, the Minnesota game where we lost with one second left. Those are stressful moments. I look at the guys that were on the ice last night, especially on the backend – inexperienced players. [San Jose] has an extra guy, they’ve got nothing to lose, they throw everything at you. A mad scramble and it goes in your net. It’s hard to pick away at that type of play. In my opinion, minute one or minute one-and-a-half cost us the game, not minute 59-and-a-half. Minute one-and-a-half was was played very poorly. It was a lackadaisical. We brought the puck back into our end twice. We didn’t get guys off the ice and get fresh people out there. I went home last night and my wife said, ‘Good game, you guys just about had it at the end,’ My answer to her was the exact same thing as it was to you guys, ‘No, it wasn’t the end. It was the beginning.’ I’m often asked the question, ‘What’s the most important minute of the game?’ We really don’t know, so play every one like it is. Sometimes we don’t do that.
On if the message is different when teaching young vs. old players about not wading into games
I think the the veterans can dictate the pace of play. We need energy guys, we need individuals to provide a spark. Sometimes that’s hard to get from 25-30 minute a night players. If you’re one of those 25-30 minute players, we expect steady play from you. If you’re a 10-12 minute player, we need a spark. Sometimes it might not be on the ice, it could be on the bench just acknowledging a good player or a blocked shot. I think our our third and fourth line players, six-seventh defenseman can do a better job of that. But they’re learning, they’re adapting to their roles. And the building is very quiet. If you don’t create your own energy, your own excitement, you can get lost in the game quickly. Our group has to do a better job of it.
On Dustin Brown leading the team in goals and being tied for the league lead in power play goals
I believe in what Brownie does. I think he’s had a great start to this season. To me, he looks very engaged, he looks like he’s excited to play, things are going well. He leads us in hits, power play goals, points, right up there in shots, and plus-minus. We have to remember, he’s been up and down the line up a little bit too. I think he has a little more energy – in the past, we used him a lot more on penalty killing. We’ve cut that out a little bit. I think he has a lot more energy to give 5-on-5, as well as on the power play. We made a few adjustments there, where he’s become a little more important in and around the net. As a result. he’s scoring and setting up plays for others.
On status of Doughty and if he’s relieved he’s only listed as day-to-day
For me, it’s a maintenance day. He doesn’t miss many games. I think that I’m gonna have his number up on the board tomorrow and he’s gonna be ready to play. So, not necessarily a big relief, it’s probably what I expected. We’ll be excited about getting him back.
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