Kings coach Todd McLellan opted for Funky Friday when it came to filling out his lineup card heading into the front half of a two-game set with the visiting Vegas Golden Knights.
As expected, Jeff Carter was dropped to the fourth line and Adrian Kempe slid into his usual spot alongside Gabe Vilardi. However, that didn’t even last 40 minutes, as the Kings rookie centerman was benched for nearly five minutes to end the middle frame. Additionally, seemingly out of nowhere, McLellan went with 11 forwards and 7 defensemen vs. VGK, inserting Kurtis MacDermind in the lineup as an extra player over forward Austin Wagner. With the Kings trailing by a few goals, everything reached a boiling point and multiple variations of line combos and pairings ensued.
Midway through the third period LA trailed 3-2 and had a chance to tie things up with a power play. When it didn’t produce a goal, though, it wasn’t long before Vegas picked up an insurance marker and things eventually ended 4-2.
Following the game, McLellan shared the following thoughts:
On if the 11+7 lineup choice was a coach’s decision or necessitated due to an injury or illness
We have lots of healthy players. That was a coach’s decision.
On what Gabe Vilardi needs to do to improve his game
He needs to play better. He’s got to become a factor in the game.
On the most encouraging thing he saw in the game tonight
Like usual, we take a punch or two to the face, and then we get ourselves off the mat and we continue to battle. That’s in our game and that’s in our DNA. That’s a moral victory. We’re a better team than we played tonight. We showed them a little too much respect and disrespected what we’re capable of doing. There are things that we have to improve on. We’ll work on them tomorrow. Hopefully we have a better night on Sunday.
On if the score wasn’t indicative of the team’s performance
I look at the four goals they ended up with; that happened in and around our paint. We were very poor in about 40 square feet of ice in front of our net, whether it was tip-ins, deflections, pass outs from below the goal line. Just loose, sloppy. At the other end, it took a lot to penetrate that area. They played tighter, heavier, harder in that area. With that being said, we got some good saves from Quickie when we needed them. We played hard enough and long enough to stay in the game, but just loose enough to lose it. This doesn’t match the first game in Colorado where we would have absolutely stole it. The better team won tonight. We were the second-best team, for sure.
On the challenges of late-game line combinations after playing with only 11 forwards
When you’re down by one with seven minutes left, you’re probably going to three lines anyhow. You don’t have to worry about one individual. Trent Yawney had a tougher job than Todd McClellan did tonight. We filled holes with different guys, they got more ice time. When it was time to cut down, it was time to cut down. It made it pretty simple, we were only missing one forward. But we were missing more than one when you consider some of the dressed guys that didn’t play very well.
On if the goals allowed tonight are correctable mistakes
Face off coverage was horrendous. Clearly went through it before the game – responsibilities, and some responsibilities for certain positions haven’t changed in a year and a half since we’ve been here. It’s time to understand what you need to do in those situations and get them done. It’s unacceptable if you’re giving that up right now. Some of the others — turnover on the fourth goal — get it off your tape, move it, let’s get going. I can go through a bunch of different plays during the night, but the individual always makes the mistake and the team usually pays for it. That’s how the game goes. No one’s perfect. It’s a tough game to play when you’re under pressure.
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