The entire past 14 months could easily be described as ‘fluid,’ and that word is just as appropriate for today.
With the Kings and Ducks set to play Game 2 of a unique four-game stretch, all the talk is centered on Quinton Byfield. Following his call-up to the taxi squad on Monday, questions have been flying regarding a possible date for his NHL debut. It at least appears that could come as early as Wednesday night at Staples Center.
Not sure where this is going or if it holds up…
Today's line combos at Kings practice would suggest:
Moore – Byfield – Kempe
Grundstrom – JAD – Luff
— John Hoven | The Mayor (@mayorNHL) April 27, 2021
If Tuesday’s practice configurations are to hold, Byfield would look to be playing with Adrian Kempe and Trevor Moore (which would also come with an official call-up to the NHL roster).
As the top line is all but locked in, a Byfield debut would lead to a series of follow-up questions about how the remaining forwards would be utilized… and will coach Todd McLellan possibly go with 11 forwards and seven defensemen again? It’s something he said he liked after the game on Monday.
At the very least, we expect Lias Andersson to re-join the Kings lineup tonight. That would most likely come with an official call-up to the Kings roster (unlike his emergency recall on Saturday). Along with Byfield, those would be the second and third third of LA’s four possible call-ups.
Predicting the third and fourth line is a challenge because it remains unknown if McLellan will use a traditional lineup of 12 forwards. We’re assuming so.
projected POTENTIAL lineup vs. Anaheim Ducks
Iafallo – Kopitar – Brown
Kempe – Byfield – Moore
Andersson – Vilardi – Athanasiou
Lemieux – Lizotte – Wagner
Bjornfot – Doughty
Anderson – Roy
Maatta – Walker *
* MacDermind could slide in to replace Maatta or be used as a seventh defenseman
Other players available:
The taxi squad is currently comprised of Troy Grosenick, Drake Rymsha, Lias Andersson, Quinton Byfield, Cole Hults, and Tyler Madden
NOTE: The Kings are scheduled to wear their ’90s Heritage Jerseys tonight (pictured above). This is one of three games where they’ll break out the Gretzky-era classics.
Should McLellan provide any key updates during his media availability later this morning, this article will be updated.
McLellan has confirmed Byfield will play. He also shared the following thoughts…
On the configuration of the lineup tonight and the defense specifically
McLellan on Byfield
We’re going to give him the information that we think he needs, as we do with any of the other players. We’re really going to leave him alone. He’s worked hard to get here. We don’t want to overload any individuals, certainly not an 18-year-old coming into the league. I’m going to use that cliché of ‘Play the game, enjoy the moment, and take everything in, don’t be afraid of making mistakes, we’ll help you with that.’ That’s what you have a long career for, is to fix them. He has good people around him when he steps onto the ice tonight in Brown and Kopitar – even Kempe and Iafallo have garnered some experience now in the league and it hasn’t been that long ago since they played their first game. He has a lot of support up front. I think it will create some excitement for our hockey club, as well.
On how he’ll use Byfield tonight, what he might expose him to or protect him against
I’m gonna call his number and let him play. I don’t know how many penalties there’ll be or anything like that, but he’ll see some power play time. I don’t know where he’ll fit in on the penalty kill. We’ll see how many penalties we have tonight, but he’s been a penalty killer at the American League level. We’re not playing him to hide him. We’re playing him to let him experience things, so he should be able to handle a regular shift, we expect him to. After that, there may be more ice time available for him.
[ed. note: McLellan indicated Byfield would likely be with the second power play unit]
On the biggest strides he’s seen Byfield make this season
I think there’s been a personal adjustment that he’s made to life here. That affects his game, the comfort of being in and around the NHL players. I know he hasn’t played in the NHL, but he parks in the same parking lot, they talk all the time, he’s familiar with both coaching staffs, he’s comfortable in the community, all of that type of comfort should help a player, rather than being recalled from Manchester, for example. All of that is comfort, I think he’s understood and begun to adapt to the pro game, certainly at the American League level. He’s become a little more responsible defensively, understands the pace of play and how quick he has to make decisions, and distribute pucks. I hope that he’s not one that will feel obligated to move pucks to older, more experienced veterans, because he has a very good skill set. We want him to use that and command the use of the puck, the distribution of it, and the shot selection. But sometimes, young players feel a little bit intimidated, like they have to do that. I hope he doesn’t feel that way because, quite obviously at the American League level, he’s overcome that and he does control games at times.
On a guy with Byfield’s size and speed, what type of thoughts go into who he should be playing with
We wanted to put him with veteran players that have confidence and feel comfortable right; somebody that can support him. Kempe is that type of player, he can skate with him and has experience in the league. Trevor Moore is also going to play with him tonight. He has a tenacity to his game, and a confidence in his game right now that we think will also complement him. Both are quite responsible defense players, as well. Both are good penalty killers, so maybe they can help him in that facet, as well.
Also be sure to check out what Byfield had to say following his first practice with the Kings yesterday – linked below for your reference.
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