Even though the Kings cancelled Saturday’s scheduled practice in Denver, coach Todd McLellan did meet with the media. When we asked about any changes to the lineup for Sunday’s rematch with the Avs, McLellan — who usually plays it fairly close to the vest anyway — had sort of a magician’s feel about him. We kind of expected him to say, ‘Now for my next trick…’ – then drop a smoke bomb and disappear from the screen.
Having already faced some early season roster shuffling due to COIVD protocols and various injuries, several new curveballs arrived in waves over the past few days, causing extra chaos for the veteran coach.
Goalie Cal Petersen’s false-positive test had to be a relief, from both a health and hockey perspective. Reliever Troy Grosenick came up big in a win on Wednesday, but the reality is few inside the Kings organization were probably overly thrilled with the idea of traveling to play one of the league’s top teams with Grosenick and prospect Matt Villalta as the goaltending options.
Defenseman Olli Maatta entered protocol prior to Friday’s game, causing a slight scramble on defense. Of late, McLellan has had to play Kurtis MacDermid perhaps more than he’d like to right now. Which is also interesting because Daniel Brickley is lurking on the taxi squad; having been asked to travel with the Kings this weekend after playing well for AHL Ontario thus far this season.
Then there’s Alex Iafallo. After assuring everybody on Saturday that the Kings practice wasn’t cancelled for COVID-related reasons, McLellan channeled his inner-Marvin Hagler and gave a nice body blow to the other illnesses.
“Right now, our team has an illness going through the team,” explained McLellan on Saturday. “We don’t believe it’s COVID-related. It’s just winter related. Alex seems to be a little better and Olli not. Now, there’s a group of other players that have woke up not feeling really well. Out of precautions, we believe it’s just flu and all the other stuff we never talk about anymore, we didn’t practice today. We kept everybody away from each other and we’ll play tomorrow without a pregame skate. That’s all we can do. We’re dealing with different circumstances.”
Knowing the unpredictability of what could perhaps arrive over the next 24 hours, McLellan wasn’t able to offer much clarity on who might be in the lineup for Sunday’s game- beyond one possible hint.
“It’s not even fair to answer that question right now,” he said. “I don’t think we can deal with assumptions with where we’re at right now. We’ll wake up tomorrow morning and see who we have available to us. All of the players on the taxi squad and all the players on the roster that exist right now on this trip are going to be made available. We’ll see who we have.”
And that’s where the Jaret Anderson-Dolan speculation can kick in. Parsing what NHL coaches say and trying to read between the lines is a tightrope walk, at best. JAD isn’t on the roster. He’s on IR at the moment. Yet, we don’t anticipate they brought him on the trip to not play. If a player is healthy enough to travel, he’s usually going to play at some point. Conversely, they don’t have to play him because they do have other alternatives at forward, including Lias Anderson.
Let’s assume that Maatta remains in protocol, thus he’s the only unavailable player.
The Kings played Friday night with a 23-man roster, comprised of the 20 guys in the game, plus three scratches – Iafallo, Andersson and Brickley.
Swapping in any of Iafallo, Andersson, Brickley for guys who played on Friday can be done with relative ease. However, if JAD is activated, this would eliminate either Andersson, Brickley, or Tobias Bjornfot from the roster. And if he’s healthy, we can’t see Bjornfot sitting out for Brickley.
LA Kings PURE SPECULATION / projected lineup vs. the Avs
Iafallo – Kopitar – Brown
Athanasiou – Vilardi – Carter
Grundstrom – JAD / Andersson – Kempe
Moore – Lizotte – Luff
Anderson – Doughty
Bjornfot – Roy
Brickley / MacDermid – Walker
Other players available:
Martin Frk (IR)
Jonathan Quick (IR)
Olli Maatta (non-roster)
Current taxi squad listed as – Lias Andersson, Daniel Brickley, Drake Rymsha, and Matt Villalta.
The Avalanche projected lineup can be found here.
BONUS QUOTES FROM ANZE KOPITAR:
On any sense of urgency that is created when McLellan changes his wingers (in Friday’s game, Kopitar was placed with Athanasiou and Carter, after staring with Kempe and Brown)
I think Todd was just trying to find something because not a whole lot was going. It actually happens more than you think. Maybe not with our line so much, but it’s happened in the past. We all remember Darryl [Sutter] at his best, so it’s not really unfamiliar territory. Todd was just trying to find something, get a combo that would produce something. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen.
On the locker room vibe after Friday’s loss
The vibe wasn’t good at all. I don’t think you have to be a hockey expert to really see what was going on last night. We realized that wasn’t the game — outside of Cal, I don’t think anybody was or should be satisfied with their game. We’ll correct that.
On being in the Hart Trophy conversation again, and how he would compare this season to his 2018 season
I don’t know. It’s hard to compare. Obviously a shortened season, different schedule, you’re not playing against every team. I don’t know if you can really compare. Bottom line is, I feel good on the ice and I just want to continue playing like I have been so far. There’s still a lot of hockey left, so I’m not thinking about any of that. We’re just trying to win games and stay in the hunt and be in the mix for the playoffs.
On if he would prefer to keep the media out of the locker room, like Drew Doughty recently commented about
I wouldn’t be opposed to it.
On what strength Colorado brings that he’d like to see the Kings incorporate into their game
If you look at just a simple stat, it’s the shot count. I’d like to see us take more shots, but in saying that you can’t just shoot to get the shot clock up. You want to build your game from the back end into the offensive zone, spend more time there, and be aggressive. Let the forecheck do the work. We sound like a broken record pretty much every night, but that really is the recipe for success. When you spend more time in the offensive zone, the quality shots and the quality chances are going to come.
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