Back on the ice, Insiders!
The Kings had a well-deserved off day yesterday and were back in action this morning in preparation for an extended stretch of games here in California. The next six games the team will play will be in their home state, with five home games and a quick trip to San Jose on the docket over the next two weeks.
“If the players felt like I did, yesterday was a good day for all of us,” Todd McLellan said today. “We needed to unpack our bags, put our feet up and just relax. It’s been a lot, it’s been emotional and taxing, but as I said, we can keep selling that story if we want, but everyone is going to go through it at some point. The day off was a good thing for us.”
The team was back on the ice this morning for practice in El Segundo, their first skate here on home ice in more than a week. Here’s how the Kings aligned this morning for practice –
Vial – Kopitar – Kempe
Grundstrom – Lizotte – Vilardi – Andersson
Defensemen: Anderson, Edler, Moverare, Roy, Walker
Drew Doughty missed today’s practice due to “personal reasons”, for LA Kings PR. Sean Durzi, who is currently considered day-to-day with a lower-body injury, also did not practice today, leaving the Kings with five defensemen throughout the skate. With an odd number, the Kings rotated through the available options, with Sean Walker taking part in power-play drills as the defensive option. Will re-evaluate tomorrow, but nothing whatsoever to expect that at least Doughty will not be available.
Cut, take 2
During the game in Seattle, the Kings made the in-game decision to reunite the line of Kevin Fiala, Anze Kopitar and Adrian Kempe. A trio to begin the season, it was the obvious fit with the newly acquired, point-per-game winger joining the established duo of Kopitar and Kempe from the season prior. We saw glimpses of a line that worked, but after a stretch the Kings were disappointed with from a “chances for versus against” perspective, the team opted to move Fiala off that line and make him the ”alpha” option on his own line, with Rasmus Kupari and Carl Grundstrom. That line showed flashes of excellence, especially early on, but overall across the group, finishing has lagged for the Kings at 5-on-5.
In recent losses against Seattle and Vancouver, McLellan was a believer in the chances that were being created, but felt that polish when it came to finishing those chances was lacking. Two goals at even strength from those two games naturally supports that. At the first intermission versus the Kraken, the Kings opted to try Fiala again with Kopitar and Kempe, in hopes of sparking something offensively.
That line was together once again during today’s practice and that brings three natural storylines –
McLellan on Fiala Adjusting – When we brought him in, we brought him to play in that spot. We just had to settle some things down and get him fitting in and comfortable. He and I talked the other day, he said he feels way better about language, systems, structure and teammates, surroundings, so that’s a good sign.
McLellan on Kempe, Kopitar & Fiala Together, Round 2 – I think we’re counting on that, we hope that will happen this time around more than it happened before. There’s three pieces to that puzzle, each one of them has to basically get done together. We believed from the summer, the day that we got Kevin here, that they could do it together, but we’ve got to try it again and see where it goes.
McLellan on how the changes impact Gabe Vilardi, and him getting different matchups on the third line – It helped Kevin and you get the third pair or you get the third line for the most part and if you get the job done, let’s face it, it’s an easier task for the most part, so hopefully that’ll help you. Gabe has played a lot of minutes, not double but significantly more, against tougher competition on a more consistent basis, from 21 games in 39 nights. Not an easy task.
Overall, at 5-on-5, the line has trended just below the 50 percent mark in terms of shot attempts and scoring chances, though overall, goals for and against have been 6-6. Those numbers are certainly not a reflection of the quality of the individuals on that line, with all three players capable of great things when it comes to production. They also haven’t played together off a puck drop since October, so they’ll get a fresh start off the opening faceoff against New York tomorrow evening. The Kings are hoping for a better connection to maximize the abilities of all three players.
Gotta Go To Mo
Saturday’s game in Seattle marked the NHL season debut by defenseman Jacob Moverare.
Moverare logged just under 14 minutes in his first game of the season, playing his usual, simple game. Moverare wo n’t blow you away with flash or anything crazy in the offensive zone – even if he did collect five shots on goal in Seattle – but he’s a typically sturdy player whohandles his business, in his own way, without the glamour that comes along with it.
“We got exactly what we thought we would get, the same, simple, plays well defended, blocking shots,” Todd McLellan said of his game on Saturday. “It was kind of nice to have a lefty and a righty on all the pairs and he gave us what we needed. He was well prepared and ready to go.”
Moverare was generally happy with his play in Seattle, admitting a few things could have gone better, but overall, a solid effort.
His last game before Saturday was seven days prior, on Saturday, November 12 with the AHL’s Ontario Reign. Moverare was recalled as Brandt Clarke went the other way, and had practiced with the Kings since. He tried his best to treat his practices as importantly as possible, to be ready when his number was alled.
“I try to always work hard when we have skates, even if it’s morning skate and I know that I’m not playing, I’ll work with [Skills Coach Derik Johnson] and [Goaltending Coach Bill Ranford] to stay in shape. I also try to mentally be ready every day, something could happen, so we cold play, so just try to be mentally ready.
In the games he is not playing in, Moverare tried his best to observe how his fellow defensemen tried to play in certain situations and how he can apply those situations into his own game.
Watching different plays like reading and defending odd-man rushes is something he took a lot of notes on and how he can apply them to when he did check back into the lineup.
“I prefer to see what they do that I can apply to my game,” he explained. “I see, sometimes, small details and I see what works, so I try to see that and then apply it to my game and steal a little bit from what others are great at.”
With just five defensemen on the ice today, hard to tell if he’ll continue in action tomorrow evening, but if he does, Moverare presents a trusting option for the Kings whenever he does get his opportunity.
Transactions, Presented By Dunder Mifflin Paper
The Kings announced this morning a quick reversal of their three roster moves from yesterday.
Moverare, along with forwards Lias Andersson and Rasmus Kupari, were all assigned to Ontario on the off day but were back with the big club this morning for practice. A set of transactions of the paper variety, as opposed to the standard variety and all three players are expected to be available for tomorrow’s game at this time.
As you were, Insiders!
Game day tomorrow against the Rangers, the only game the Kings will play in a five-day span. More to come in the AM!
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