They’ve been to overtime in four of their last five games, yet the Kings only have one win during that stretch. With 24 of their 56-game schedule already completed, the midpoint of LA’s 2021 season is quickly approaching, bringing added urgency with each passing day. In advance of their rematch with the Ducks on Wednesday night, coach Todd McLellan put his team through the paces at practice on Tuesday. Here are five tidbits to keep you caught up with all the latest news…
1. For most of the season, the taxi squad hasn’t been much to think about. There have largely just been a series of paper transactions, with players shuffling back and forth between the NHL and AHL rosters, and a majority of them simply designed to meet league requirements. However, for the second consecutive day, there was something worth noting. When the Kings didn’t add an extra body from AHL Ontario on Monday afternoon, it indicated McLellan was either playing Rasmus Kupari or Tobias Bjornfot, but not both (as one of them needed to stay on the taxi squad to meet the minimum of four players). Tuesday morning, the Kings recalled Austin Strand and placed him on the taxi squad. While not a guarantee of anything, it does at least show they wanted him practicing with the big club again.
In his three games played with the Reign after being sent down, Strand recorded zero points and was a minus-2. He also recorded 7 SOG in his first game back in the AHL, played March 3 vs. the Gulls.
2. For roster junkies, the following players were returned to Ontario: Akil Thomas, Sammy Fagemo, and Matt Villalta.
And the current taxi squad is listed as – Tobias Bjornfot, Rasmus Kupari, Austin Strand, and Troy Grosenick.
Still confused about the taxi squad? We offered a quick primer here.
3. As for the actual player groupings at practice, McLellan went with:
LA Kings groupings at practice on Tuesday, March 9
Forwards in gray jerseys – Athanasiou, Brown, Carter, Iafallo, Kopitar, Kupari, Luff and Vilardi
Forwards in white jerseys – Amadio, Kempe, Lizotte, Grundstrom, Moore and Wagner
Red non-contact jersey – Anderson-Dolan
Defensemen – Anderson, Doughty, Roy, Maatta, MacDermid, Strand and Walker
Goaltenders – Petersen, Grosenick
Not available – Martin Frk (IR)
Jonathan Quick is not on the ice for practice this morning.
— John Hoven | The Mayor (@mayorNHL) March 9, 2021
FWIW – Bjornfot played his last shift around 59min of the third period on Saturday. He and Roy had the same shift length. Didn't appear to be a problem at the time.
— John Hoven | The Mayor (@mayorNHL) March 9, 2021
4. Coach Todd McLellan on the absence of Bjornfot from practice – “He’s battling a little bit, just not feeling right. We expect him to make progress and be ready to play tomorrow.”
5. Drew Doughty on if this feels anything like a normal season now that we’re 24 games in — “To be honest, it doesn’t feel like it’s a abnormal season to me. Yeah, we’re playing a lot of games in a lot of days, so our bodies are taking a beating. I’m definitely tired on the days off, but when it comes to game day we’re fully prepared and ready to go. Every team is dealing with it, so it’s just something we have to go with. In this shortened season, every game is just so important. I like that about this season. When you play 82 games, there’s a little lull of like 10 games where you go on the east coast and things aren’t as intense. Playing 56, every point, every game matters so much that it’s a lot of fun playing this many games in so many days.
More Doughty, this time on how he likes all the zoom calls – “I like it. I’m not gonna lie to you guys. I hope you don’t come in the dressing room any more and we just keep doing it this way. Maybe we can do face-to-face like conference room type things, but we like keeping the music on after the wins.
6. McLellan on creating the Moore-Lizzote-Kempe line, a grouping he complimented after the game vs. Anaheim on Monday night – “We had that line together against St. Louis late in the game and they seemed to have a bit of a spark. Since JAD has been gone, our third and fourth lines have been kind of in flux, with players moving in and around. We gave Rasmus a look, Amadio has been in and out. We’re trying to find some consistency and while that line picked it up, I’m not sure that we got enough from a few other lines. It was a calculated guess on who would play well together and, as it turns out, after the their first shift they were probably our best line last night.”
7. McLellan on the most important element when putting a new line together – “There are a lot of factors that go into it – time of year, who’s playing well, who’s played well together in the past. Our group tends to like to keep pairs together as much as we possibly can, maybe only flip one individual out. It’s also, sometimes when you inject somebody that’s been out of the line-up, they tend to give you a good game because they’re real hungry and they want to stay in. You take that into consideration. Also, home-road, who might they play against, who could they match up against, do they penalty kill, or are they on the power play, are they on both? There’s factors that go into that. How are you going to distribute the minutes from night to night? Center icemen, face-off situations, there’s so many factors that go in and during a game you make adjustments. We did it yesterday, we went down to three lines, you’re just just looking for nine forwards, five D sometimes, that are playing the best and you run them. Unfortunately, some guys get left out, but that’s just the way it is.
More McLellan, specifically on the top two lines – “We always talk about movement and change. We’ve worked hard to establish what we have right now. I don’t think the line combinations had anything to do with the sloppy play that we saw last night in Anaheim. Sometimes individuals are just having a tough night, not being real sharp. I don’t think you’re gonna see anything over dramatic, as far as shuffling goes.”
Just a little speculation here… It appears like Luff and Kupari are out tomorrow night, with Amadio and Wagner drawing back in. Also, with Quick missing practice again, that likely puts his scheduled start in the rotation in question. Nothing is official, though, until Wednesday’s morning skate at the earliest.
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