After yesterday’s day off, the Kings returned to the ice this morning in El Segundo as they continued preparations for tomorrow’s home game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Everyone who is expected to be accounted for is accounted for. The group of 18 skaters who dressed up for New York on Monday were intact, with Andreas Athansaiou continuing to skate in a full-contact jersey, while Jacob Moverare was again present as the seventh defender. The Kings still have two players – Carl Grundstrom and Christian Wolanin – in the COVID protocol, while striker Samuel Fagemo was assigned back to AHL-Ontario when he skated with Reign today.
Here’s how the group lined up during today’s training –
Iafallo – Kopitar – Kempe
Moore – Danault – Arvidsson
Turcotte – Copper – Brown
Lemieux – Lizotte – Kaliyev
Anderson – Doughty
Maatta – Roy
Quick / Petersen
Andreas Athanasiou skated again, but Todd McLellan shared that he is not ready to play yet, which is an obviously necessary step for his return to the lineup. It did not come today, so of course he is a question mark for tomorrow’s match.
The Kings have had three consistent front lines during their last stretch of matches, listed as the first, second and fourth line shown above. The third line has been the one that is consistently affected by damages, the COVID protocol and other elements. In terms of staff, it is rare that two consecutive games are alike.
Since Blake Lizotte returned to the ranks in mid-December, the Kings have used six different line combinations on the third unit from nine games played, with no combination playing more than two games in a row together and seven different players included. one of its stronger games in terms of puck possession, on Monday and some extra consistency going forward would not be a bad thing.
Ia-fallo You Back To The Top Line
Striker Alex Iafallo returned to action on Monday against New York and skated alongside Anze Kopitar and Adrian Kempe on a first line that has been introduced over the past few weeks. The emergence of Trevor Moore on the second unit has given Iafallo the opportunity to skate again with Kopitar, a combination that we have seen in most of his first four seasons in the NHL.
Iafallo played 19:42 against Rangers, just a minute more than his season average, which showed that McLellan did not hesitate to play him at his usual pace, if not more. When he spoke to Iafallo today, he felt pretty much like himself during his first fight back.
“It felt good, first period I was a little out of trying to get into it again, but after a few shifts you feel better,” Iafallo said today. “Playing with Kopi and Juice, I know them, so it was good. Obviously you take a break from the fights, but you can prepare mentally while you’re free and go from there. That’s how I got to it. ”
While Iafallo noted that he had some mild symptoms at first but nothing really out of the ordinary during a season, he did not say anything significant as it relates to his positive test. Todd McLellan shared with us today that Iafallo was one of the players in the boat “if I had not tested positive, I would never have known I had it”. That, along with new protocols that limited Iafallo’s stay to five days as opposed to ten, gave the coaching staff some hesitation in playing him on his usual workload.
Ice skating with well-known line mates also played a big role in the fact that there was no need for a relaxation process, where Iafallo was very familiar with both Kopitar and Kempe.
Throughout this season, Iafallo has also played in-depth with Phillip Danault, with his experience of skating with Kopitar going back to 2017. Both different players, but he does not feel the need to later anything in his game or his approach with a switch in center man.
“I do not really change my game, you just get a sense of where [Kopitar and Danault] is going to be, supportively, ”Iafallo said. “On the breakout, Kopi sometimes wants to fly through the middle, he talks where Phil might be lower. It’s like the feeling of playing, so we just read from each other.”
An important piece to have left in the fold for the Kings, who are entering a busy stretch of upcoming matches.
As we progress through the season, we have seen ups and downs in the goalkeeper position. Fortunately, from a Kings perspective, we have not yet encountered a stretch so far where both goalkeepers have been down together. We’ve seen one every way and right now we have both goalkeepers hot at the same time and that’s a good sign for LA.
“Cal is hot now, he is, he has played six really good periods after a long break, but we have not forgotten that number 32 is also quite hot and it is a luxury,” McLellan said today. “Think of the disaster we would have if we talked about them both being cold. We want to keep them both alive, both sharp, both healthy and the amount of games we have to play will allow us to do it.”
McLellan extended that we probably will not see either Quick or Petersen in a race with something like ten consecutive starts, at least not if everything goes according to plan. As long as both goalkeepers play well, both will see time in the net, as the Kings have done most of the season.
Petersen’s play, and his return to that level, was documented yesterday, but it’s easy to forget that Quick has been solid over his last piece of the game. Of course, matches against Carolina and Vegas were matches from a team-wide perspective, but even including those games, Quick 6-4-1 with a .916 save percentage over his last 11 games, including the skewed numbers against CAR / VGK. That’s fucking good.
As the Kings continue into the second half of the season, the schedule is tightened up, reinforcing the need to have two goalkeepers doing well. Starting tomorrow against Pittsburgh, the Kings begin a stretch of 11 games in 21 days, held in nine different cities. With the hectic race leading up to the currently still planned Olympic break, the Kings will need both net reminders at their best.
“We’ll start playing every other night, for sure and some nights back-to-back,” McLellan said. “The rotation will be fairly even if [both goaltenders] Keep going. Then we go into a break and we do it all over again. The normal part of was what we’ve just been through, playing a few, having two days off, each time a three-day break. Because of the Olympic break that was planned in, it puts everything else stuck in the backend, not just for us, but for everyone. They both have to play. “
Both players will be important and we will see how that rotation begins tomorrow against the Penguins.
Finally, hear from the two-time Stanley Cup champions and longtime Kings striker Jeff Carter as he spoke to the media earlier today at the Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles.
Traded for the Penguins last season, tomorrow’s match will mark Carter’s return to Southern California, where he plays as an opponent for the first time since joining the Columbus Blue Jacket in January 2012. Carter spoke today about his memories of his time with the Kings , his friendships that still exist with Kings players, his thoughts on playing tomorrow night as a guest, and his reflections on the trade to Pittsburgh.
The Kings are scheduled to hold a morning skate tomorrow at 7 p.m. 10.30 from Toyota Sports Performance Center, before the home final at. 19.30.