With only five games remaining on their regular season schedule, the Kings are preparing for more of a sandwich than an Avalanche. LA’s final stretch will feature a pair of two-game sets vs. Colorado, with a solo game against the St. Louis Blues stuffed in between.
Coming into the weekend, Anze Kopitar is the talk of the town.
After notching his 1,000th point on Wednesday, he will be honored in a pre-game ceremony to commemorate the milestone.
In a ‘circle of life’ moment, LA’s 18-year-old prized prospect, Quinton Byfield, recorded his first NHL point in the same game. It’s only fitting that he’ll be on hand for the festivities before heading back to the AHL soon. If things work out as hoped for, the young center is perhaps getting a preview of what his hockey life could look like years down the road. Check back in 10 or 15 years and we’ll see if his potential has been fulfilled.
In the meantime, tonight is scheduled to be Byfield’s final NHL game for the season. And building upon that, prior to the team’s morning skate, Rasmus Kupari was officially moved from AHL Ontario to the Kings taxi squad.
LA Kings roster move…
Look for Rasmus Kupari to be recalled from AHL Ontario. He'll start out on the taxi squad. We'll see where it goes from there. https://t.co/eI8Kj8VCcI
— John Hoven | The Mayor (@mayorNHL) May 7, 2021
While it doesn’t appear like Kupari will play tonight, his time is coming very soon (more on that below).
Goaltending continues to be in flux a bit, as Matt Villalta has been returned to Ontario, likely to start their game vs. San Diego tonight. Replacing him on the taxi squad was Jacob Ingham. We do not expect Jonathan Quick to suit up as the backup, as he’s been sidelined the past few days and did not participate in the pre-game skate. Troy Grosenick remains with the Kings on an emergency recall.
Per LA Kings – After consultation with team medical staff, it's been determined that Dustin Brown will be sidelined for the remainder of the season due to an upper body injury sustained earlier in the year. Brown will continue to undergo treatment & rehabilitation.
— John Hoven | The Mayor (@mayorNHL) May 7, 2021
With Dustin Brown now sidelined for the balance of the season, coach Todd McLellan will have to reconfigure his lines heading into the home stretch.
LA Kings projected lineup vs. Colorado Avalanche
Kempe – Kopitar – Moore
Iafallo – Vilardi – Andersson
Athanasiou – Byfield – Grundstrom
Lemieux – JAD – Wagner
Bjornfot – Roy
Maatta – Walker
Other players available:
Blake Lizotte (injured, upper body)
Dustin Brown (injured, upper body)
Jacob Ingham, Drake Rymsha, Cole Hults, Tyler Madden, and Rasmus Kupari
Should McLellan provide any key updates during his media availability later this morning, this article will be updated.
McLellan on what he’ll say to Byfield when he heads back to the AHL
We will sit with him and we’ll talk to him about his game. It’s been ongoing since he’s been here, quite frankly. There won’t be a big grand, ‘See you later’ meeting. I’ll be real brief and to the point. He’s still a very young man, physically. It may seem odd to talk about a guy that’s almost 6-foot-5 and well over 200 lbs. [like that], but there’s still strength and endurance, and some of those things, that he needs to continue to work on, as mother nature helps him grow and get stronger. I think the understanding of how we want to play, and the type of game that we play here will be important for him to absorb and to concentrate on. One of the most impressive things about him has been some of the questions he’s asked and how he’s been able to adapt. I think that’s a real positive sign. I think this is the type of player — without putting undue pressure on him — that can get better fast because he wants to and he asks real good questions, and puts them into play.
On what goes into the thinking when trying to select a player to replace Brown’s spot in the line-up
A lot of different things. First of all, we take a look at who we’re playing against. We’re gonna play Colorado in four of our last five games. They have a line that runs rough shot over just about everybody in the league. Yeah, it would be great to put a really young player up on that wing with Kopi and say, ‘Hey, you know what, go play.’ But we also want to have success as a team, so we don’t want to put anybody in a situation where they may not be ready for it. We’ll look at somebody that can play against that line, at least here at home, and handle themselves defensively, as well as offensively. We’ll also use a bit of a reward system, maybe look at some chemistry, looking to find some chemistry. Kopi and Brownie have played together for a lot of years. Right now, Brownie’s not available, so maybe it clicks with somebody else. Those are just a few of the many thoughts that go into it.
On how long Brown had been dealing with the upper-body injury
It’s been going on for a little while. He’s a pretty tough character and he’s played through a fair amount lately. It doesn’t quite heal, it keeps reappearing. It’s just not good for him to keep going right now. He’ll get the treatment he needs and he’ll be back, ready to go.
For the next moves related to Byfield and Kupari, see our recent article linked below.
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