With only one win in their last seven games, the Kings playoff hopes are on life support. Realistically, they’re only three points up on Anaheim for last place in the West Division… Although the Ducks have played a few more games.
As for LA’s immediate focus, they’ll finish out a two-game set vs. the visiting Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday night at Staples Center. The pregame skate was optional, so little was revealed regarding what lineup coach Todd McLellan is likely to use. However, reading the tea leaves from Tuesday’s practice, below is our best estimate.
And, yes, Gabe Vilardi is expected to be a healthy scratch, while newcomer Brendon Lemieux is scheduled to make his Kings debut.
LA Kings projected lineup vs. Arizona Coyotes
Iafallo – Kopitar – Brown
Athanasiou – Kempe – Carter
Moore – JAD – Grundstrom
Lemieux – Lizotte – Wagner
Anderson – Doughty
MacDermid – Walker
Clague – Strand
Other players available:
Martin Frk (placed on waivers)
Matt Roy (protocol)
Olli Maatta (IR, out week-to-week)
The taxi squad is currently comprised of Sammy Fagemo, Drake Rymsha, Mark Alt, and Troy Grosenick.
Martin Frk on waivers.
McLellan kept saying it's been rough for him this year.
Dude has barely played.
— John Hoven | The Mayor (@mayorNHL) April 7, 2021
Kings will have a myriad of roster moves today – largely paper transactions. Try not to get too confused.
As of this morning, taxi squad was: Clague, Strand, Alt, Grosenick.
Rymsha was on NHL roster. He's not staying there. Clague and/or Strand bumped to NHL. Durzi to taxi, etc pic.twitter.com/cEsUt9msHa
— John Hoven | The Mayor (@mayorNHL) April 7, 2021
NOTE: Any relevant comments from McLellan’s morning media availability will be added below.
McLellan on what can be done to up the intensity for individual players and the group as a whole
Well, first of all, those words are tossed around like they’re common. They almost are used so much by coaches, players, and media people that they don’t have any meaning – they’re just empty. We have to redefine what that is and each individual may have a different recipe when it comes to those those words. You have an identity or a reputation as individual, play towards that. Use your strengths, you’re here for a reason. Then, collectively, we should have an identity that also we should be playing towards. This has been a very tough team to play against, a group that can frustrate the opposition, structurally sound, opportunistic, and special teams have been sharp. We’ve gotten away from that a little bit, so we’re not playing to what our identity is. Part of that is because we throw those words around and maybe sometimes we don’t define them enough for each individual — not necessarily us as coaches, but even the individuals.
On how much the compacted schedule and limited practice time has impacted his ability to change schemes or introduce new concepts on offense or defense
It becomes an excuse, but it’s also a reality – not only for our team, but for any team in the league. If you lose a part of your game, it’s really hard to get it back. They have to be visual learners, they have to be verbal learners, and be able to apply it. That doesn’t always affect the way you feel on the ice because you don’t get to go out and and skate through it. Yesterday was a prime example. I didn’t think we were very competitive at the beginning of the game the other day. It’s been a bit of a trend for a few nights, so we needed a good heavy, work practice just to get their attention again. We have to think about the big picture as well as the small picture. Maybe the right thing would have been to really go after it hard in practice and get it out of them, make them realize it. The schedule also dictates how much of that we can really do. We had some tempo in practice. We tried to address it verbally and visually. We walked through some things quickly in practice. I thought our skate yesterday was good. In a regular season it probably would have been a little bit of a different type of practice due to scheduling.
On what Sean Durzi would need to do to get into a game
He needs to take the games in. Watch and learn, pick things up in practice. He’s not far off, but we just feel right now that the players we have we need to find out more about them. We’re talking about Clague and Strand. Our timeframe with them is a little shorter than with Durzi. They’re further along in their development phase, so we need to to find out about them a little bit more. They should be the ones that are going in and producing results because of the amount of experience that they’ve had. That doesn’t mean that Durzi isn’t close, doesn’t mean that he won’t get a look. There are some other players down there in the same boat. We just traded for Wolanin, who from what I understand had a pretty good game last night. So there are others that are close, which just goes back to some of them that are up here right now getting their opportunity, take advantage of it. You’re getting that chance; perform at a high level and make decisions hard for the organization moving forward.
On the decision to sit Vilardi
Gabe’s treated just like any of the other players, especially the young ones that are still earning their stripes. It doesn’t always have to be Grundstrom, Wagner, and whoever else it is coming out of the lineup. It can also be some of the older players. We saw that last year with Toffoli and some of the others, like Lewis. I think it’s a great opportunity for Gabe to reset things right now and to watch a game. Sometimes you realize things are little different when you’re up above, where it looks a little bit slower. We’re asking a ton, putting a ton of pressure on this young man. He’s 21 and we’re playing him in the two-hole. We’re asking him to run a power play. His point production — not necessarily his play, but his point production — last year created huge expectations. You guys know that as well as I do because you ask me about him specifically all the time. Therefore lies the stress that he’s under. He hasn’t played that many games yet. His development curve is just fine. Like anybody, he needs work on his game and we’ll continue to work with him. He’s a great kid, he’s willing to learn, and we still think that we have a really good player there. It’s just gonna take a little time for him to evolve. When you look at his production compared to some others in and around his range, and the lack of opportunity or playing time that he’s had since almost since 2015, he’s doing just fine.
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