Final practice before the All-Star break, Insiders!
The Los Angeles Kings gathered at the Ice Sports Forum in Tampa for a roller skating rink before the group headed off to Raleigh, the last stop on the trip. Good practice today in the eyes of Coach Todd McClellan, with a couple of pivot points to prepare for the final test before the break in Carolina.
As for the practice itself, not a lot that I could see, but also nothing that looked different from what we’ve seen so far on this trip. Everyone here in Florida, shared in the chart below –
Byfield – Kopitar – Kempe
Yuffalo – Danault – Arvidson
Fiala – Lizotte – Anderson – Dolan
Lemieux – Kubari – Turcotte – Vajimo
Anderson – Dotty
Dorzy – Roy
Edler – Walker – Bjornfoot
In terms of tomorrow’s line-up, the decisions will likely rest with the players at the back end, with Alex Edler (3) and Tobias Bjornfoot (2) so far taking turns in the flight, and in the fourth line, with Alex Turcotte (3) and Brendan Lemieux (2) They have split games. Not to say it will be a defining affair between these individuals, with the Kings coming off a 3-goal defeat and at the end of the road trip. More to come on that front in the morning.
The Kings aren’t expecting any players to return for tomorrow’s game, noted, and McClellan shared this morning that Arthur Kaliyev and Trevor Moore have resumed skating again in California. We’ll see… Moore… an update when the team returns to the game after the break on these two, as well as forwards Karl Grundstrom and Gabriele Vilardi, who are also currently absent.
end of the road
It’s been a long journey, insiders. Long trip.
Today is the eleventh day, with the final day coming up tomorrow as the Kings face the Hurricanes, resulting in a ten-day break for most. It’s worth noting the length of the trip, and the fatigue that subsides when you reach that flight junction, but it’s also worth noting that you don’t get specific goals or ranking points for exhaustion. The Kings are tied with one of the best teams in the NHL tomorrow night and have two points on the line doing so. Getting a score in a rally will indicate a winning ride – a point of any kind puts the Kings above .500 for the overall ride. With a ten-day break after the game, which is an important break for the Kings to collect and play, with the aim of finishing the game strong before the break.
“I think the feeling of being tired now is more mental than physical,” McClellan said this morning. “We got a few days off.” “Tampa Bay, third period, you gotta be tired, back-to-back Chicago, you gotta be tired, but now, we had a great day yesterday, everybody was relaxing in the sun, doing the things they do and we’ve got good practice today. The part that worries me A little bit more than the length of the wild ride is the fact that it’s the last game before the long break, but every team worries about that, every team’s coaching staff worries a little bit about whether the players are ready or if they’re really thinking about plans.”
You never know how important a colon is to Carolina. Could she be the difference between making or missing the playoffs, the difference between an away card spot and a divisional spot, or perhaps home ice versus starting a series on the road? You never know exactly which two points you might look at with regret if there were any issues. No need to make it the Monday before the All-Star break.
“We will talk to the players tomorrow about the importance of these points,” he added. “They can be the ones deciding something for us and you can’t feel remorse, so we expect everyone to be fully involved, but there’s always that concern.”
It was in this position last season that the Kings clawed their way to a 5-3 win over Detroit. Not perfect, but they get the job done. A different opponent, with Karolina currently a squad leader, but the Kings are also in the mix. Good test and good opportunity tomorrow.
Penalty killing performance
The Los Angeles Kings have allowed just one power play goal so far on the road trip, which came in the third period of Game 1 in Nashville. The Kings have been reduced 12 times in the four games since then, and have eliminated all 12 power games against them, including twice last time versus the Lightning, a positive from the 5-2 defeat. There was only one complete game for Tampa Bay in that game, but the Kings gave the second-best power play unit in the NHL plenty of trouble, blocking entry into the zone and pressing hard. When tested more frequently the night before against the Panthers, the Kings again stood up with a solid effort.
“About 15 games ago, we took up the kill penalty and put a lot of time and effort into working on it,” McClellan said. “We’re using the words pressure and principles and we’re seeing it applied a little bit more consistently than it used to be. I think the tackle numbers are up, the clearance numbers are up and the save percentage is up. So, when all those things happen, your confidence goes up, you feel better about yourself and get the job done more often.”
We hear the same words players use too.
I distinctly remember hearing words of pressure and principle from fullback Mickey Anderson a couple of weeks ago, when the Kings were starting to turn around on their mass killing unit. I could not remember, at the time, having heard it previously from Todd McClellan, but now I have heard it many times since, both from McClellan and from others who are part of that unit. The Kings have significantly increased the pressure from penalties and have significantly improved in their clearances, breakaways and, as McClellan noted above, their tackles.
Philip Danault – I think we put more pressure on everyone together, we block more shots. Our goalkeepers are really good, it’s just more dedication. Sometimes we get some weird bounces, but we’re more predictable with them and we’re more on the same page.
Adrian Kempe – I think we were more aggressive in the area and not only when they had the puck, but after the shots, when we weren’t sure where we were, we were a lot better with that. Getting rid of confrontations has been really good, we have to keep working on our strengths as well, continue to be more aggressive, it takes time and space.
Carolina isn’t the high-profile PP unit the Kings saw in Tampa Bay, but with a wealth of skilled players, it’s there. Tough challenge though.
Brandt Clark Performance
Finally, insiders, a note about offensive production from defenseman Brandt Clark, since his return to the OHL but especially over the past few games.
Clark has collected a point in eight of his nine games in the OHL this season. He has scored in three consecutive games and has four consecutive multi-point games. Clarke led the way with a hat-trick last night in a 4-1 win over Saginaw, which followed a two-goal performance the previous day against Flint. Clark is back in the OHL for nine games now and has ten goals and ten assists for 20 points. Clark’s ten goals are the eighth most in the OHL among defensemen. Of the players who came before him, each played at least 34 matches this season.
Those are too many short sentences to describe the dynamic level of play he has brought since rejoining the Colts. Once again, Clark played NINE. An amazing production at this level.
The Colts have won six of their nine games since Clark returned after the World Junior Championships and sit comfortably at the third seed in the Eastern Conference. They seem poised for a home ice advantage in the first round and are still in the mix to host a series in the second round and beyond as well.
General Manager Rob Blake shared that Clark would return to the Kings or the Reigns at the conclusion of the OHL season, if either team was still in the postseason when that time came. The OHL’s postseason season is set to start on March 29, so it’s likely one round ahead of the NHL and AHL. Something that is at least worth a wandering eye as the season progresses.
A morning ski will follow tomorrow, Insiders, before our content focus turns to Kevin Fiala for the NHL All-Star Classic and a look ahead at Dustin Brown’s retirement night on February 11, the Kings’ upcoming home game. There’s a lot to come on both fronts here over the next couple of weeks, but the full spectacle lies ahead tomorrow night in Carolina for this game to come to an end.
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