In preparation for a two-game set vs. the St. Louis Blues this weekend – in what are scheduled as back-to-back games, no less – the Kings are feverishly trying to shake the cobwebs growing on their three-game losing streak and desperately trying to get back to their winning ways. Below are five key notes coming out of Thursday’s practice session at the team’s training facility in El Segundo.
1. Last night, coach Todd McLellan summoned a football reference when he noted, “Our overall quarterback rating would be very poor.” Today, we’re going with more of a baseball theme – as in, three strikes and you’re out. While it’s usually wise to avoid saying a single player cost a team a win, Mike Amadio did just about everything to dispel that notion vs. the Coyotes. From penalties to bad turnovers, Amadio unofficially assisted on several of the Coyotes goals. He already appeared to be on thin ice and was the player we believed most likely headed for waivers soon (explained in a detailed article here). With players like Martin Frk and Jaret Anderson-Dolan still on IR, Amadio’s roster spot appears safe for the time being. His spot in the lineup is an entirely different story, though, and all signs point to Rasmus Kupari taking over, with his possible NHL debut coming as soon as Friday night.
2. McLellan on Kupari – “The comparison between now and last year is significant; keep in mind the only time we experienced Rasmus last year was at training camp. He was new to North America, just getting his feet wet. He ended up getting hurt at the World Junior tournament, so we didn’t get to be around him much. This year, he looks like he spread his shoulders out a little bit here and held his head high and he’s telling everybody that he belongs at the top end of the American League and breaking his way into the NHL. Today in practice, he kept up. He was clean, for the most part. Structurally, we’d like to think that he has what he needs at the American League level to come here and play. He’ll get his opportunity. … We had him here for a week on the taxi squad and didn’t get to play, so that didn’t do us any good. It’s just something we needed to do in case we needed bodies, but if he’s with us now, he’ll play.”
3. All signs are pointing to Kupari centering a line with Adrian Kempe and Trevor Moore (either as the third or fourth line, take your pick). In turn, that would leave another line of Blake Lizotte playing between Carl Grundstrom and Matt Luff. Yes, that’s right, Luff is expected to return to the lineup, replacing Austin Wagner.
4. Back to Kupari drawing in and centering that line: “I’ll be excited to play with them,” said Kempe. “They have some good skills and I have a big responsibility, I have to try and take care of them as well as I can. Play my game, use my speed, and turning out the pucks – stuff like that. It’s another game and it’s just trying to adjust my game to the guys I play with. … [Kupari] has been playing really well in Ontario. A highly skilled player, good skater, good hands, and everything like that. You can see that he’s adjusting more to the game and you can see that he wants to get better every day. He’s going to be excited to be apart of his first game and I’m excited to see him play out there because he has a lot of skill. He can play, for sure.”
5. And now for a few words from Sean Walker, as he continues to recover from facial injuries caused by being hit with the puck in Minnesota earlier this season – “It was a little bit of a recovery process, but I’m feeling good. A little bit of swelling happens in the morning still, but I just ice it down, it feels good. On the cage, yesterday was four weeks since surgery, so I have about another week and a half. I’ll see the surgeon again and, hopefully, he gives me the green light to go back to the visor. … Everybody on the back-end is trying to contribute a little bit more. Dewey’s doing a great job, but he can’t be the only one doing it night in night out. You look around the league, the guys that are getting lots of points are the guys that are getting lots of shots on net. That’s something we’re trying to focus on, be more direct. That’s something I want to do. I want to contribute offensively, as well.”
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