For their final two preseason games of 2021, the Kings and Ducks will square off in a home-and-home series that starts tonight in Anaheim, followed by a rematch on Saturday in LA.
As noted in an article earlier this morning, Quinton Byfield’s injury status coming out of last night has caused GM Rob Blake to activate a series of alternate plans.
Without a media availability with coach Todd McLellan following Wednesday’s morning skate, a few pieces of our projected lineup are based on reading the tea leaves.
For starters, Alex Iafallo and Adrian Kempe stayed on the ice after the skate, along with the veteran players expected to sit out tonight. Thus, they can be ruled out, along with Kopitar, Brown, etc.
As we noted previously, the plan is to play all four of the forward prospects called up earlier today – Jaret Anderson-Dolan, Arthur Kaliyev, Rasmus Kupari, and Alex Turcotte. The question becomes where to slot them in.
With a plan to play Kaliyev and Turcotte together in Ontario this season, there’s a safe assumption they’ll be together tonight too.
Although today’s morning skate didn’t exactly produce the usual line rushes, Lemieux and Kupari were paired often, with both JAD and Lizotte seeing time at center. Lizotte also was spotted with Moore and Wagner, as well. We’re projecting Lizotte on the fourth line below, largely to get JAD back with Moore; a tandem that had some success together last year. McLellan could easily opt to flip 46 and 28, though.
Looking back over a few of the Kings recent lineups could also provide some insight into what McLellan may be thinking. Moore and Wagner played on the same line last night. Byfield was the center, so they’d need somebody new in the middle if McLellan went that route again. Back on September 30, LA iced a fourth line of Lemieux-Lizotte-Kaliyev, so there’s always the possibility of going back to that again tonight. In that same game, Wagner played on a line with Kupari as the winger. Going back even further, Moore was with Turcotte and Fagemo. And Grundstrom was JAD’s left wing that night, as well. Did somebody say options?
One key thing to add here is that we’ve learned Andreas Athanasiou is most likely going to open the season on injured reserve. This means that the Kings could still have three roster positions up for grabs. They came into camp with four roster spots open (and Athanasiou assumed to already have a spot). Then, with Vladimir Tkachev and Brendan Lemieux locking down two of those spots, that left two more in play. The AA situation makes it three now. Grundstrom, Lizotte, and Wagner would each require waivers to be sent to AHL Ontario. Keeping them would be easy, sure. From everything we’ve gathered this week, there is still an internal push to get Kupari on the roster at wing. Losing a center in Byfield could also open the door for JAD, who had been targeted to open the season with the Reign because he is waiver exempt.
Tonight’s game could provide one of the final opportunities this preseason for one of the Kings younger players to wrestle away an opening night roster spot.
Defensively, Olli Maatta is on track to return this Saturday. If he’s healthy and ready to go, Austin Strand and Christian Wolain will be headed to waivers (most likely on Sunday). Should they clear, both will be assigned to Ontario and join an already deep Reign blueline.
LA KINGS PROJECTED LINEUP vs. ANAHEIM DUCKS ON 10/6
Tkachev – Vilardi – Andersson
Moore – JAD – Wagner
Grundstrom – Turcotte – Kaliyev
Lemieux – Lizotte – Kupari
Other options: Iafallo, Kempe, Arvidsson, Brown, Kopitar, and Danault
Bjornfot – Roy
Anderson – Walker
Wolanin – Strand
Other options: Doughty and Edler
On the Anaheim side of things, the Ducks are expected to play 2021 first round selection Mason McTavish. He’s one of their top three prospects and one to keep an eye on before he heads back to the OHL soon.
Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 pm tonight and the game will be televised on Bally’s Sports Network, as will all remaining Kings preseason games.
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