A day after the Kings opened their abbreviated training camp before overflowing bleachers and a robust contingent of a couple dozen media members, the numbers at the Toyota Training Center dwindled on Day Two.
With about 25 fans looking on and a press corps reduced to dozen media members, the Kings went to work minus much of the previous day’s hype on a chilly Monday morning in El Segundo.
There were, however, a couple of big additions on the ice.
Newly acquired Anthony Stewart participated in drills and Anze Kopitar skated with associate coach Bernie Nicholls after practice. Kopitar, who has not yet been cleared to practice, was testing the knee he injured while playing in Sweden and getting accustomed to wearing a brace for the first time in his career.
“I didn’t really know what to expect,” Kopitar said. “But it felt good. We’ll see, day-by-day, how it progresses.”
Kopitar, who took passes from Nicholls and shot pucks into a wide-open net on an empty sheet of ice, did not appear to be hampered by the injury but said he is still not at 100 percent.
“I didn’t go all out right off the hop,” Kopitar said. “I wanted to pretty much just get the turns in and the crossovers. I was curious to explore the turns, the pivots. I didn’t have any problems. There is a little discomfort, but I honestly thought it would be worse.”
As for the custom brace he was fitted for yesterday, Kopitar admitted that will “take a little getting used to.”
Stewart, who arrived from Carolina in yesterday’s deal for Kevin Westgarth, is ready to shake off the surprise of being dealt on the first day of camp and move forward with his new team.
“Whenever you get traded, it’s a bit of a surprise,” Stewart said. “But Carolina, not making the playoffs last year, has a lot of young guys coming up. The GM mentioned that there would be six-or-seven guys from the minors making the team. Me being one of the third or fourth line guys, I sort of saw myself on the outside looking in.”
Stewart is happy to be landing in Los Angeles, where he is familiar with many of his new teammates and eager to be one of the players on the inside looking out.
“There is not better team to get traded to than the Stanley Cup champions,” Stewart said. “It’s a system that fits my strengths, being a big body that can skate. I know a bunch of the guys. I played World Juniors with Richie (Mike Richards) and Carts (Jeff Carter). I know (Drew) Doughty from back in Toronto. I played with (Colin) Fraser, and I know (Brad) Richardson, so it’s not like there are a lot of strangers in the room. I am grateful for the opportunity and I am not here just to be a warm body. I want to be an impact player as soon as possible.”
Stewart then gave reporters a brief synopsis of his skill set.
“I am a power forward,” he said. “I like to play along the wall and I got some speed to my game, also, so I can beat a defenseman wide and crash the net.”
Coach Darryl Sutter said it was good to see Stewart on the ice, but stressed he will be in a battle for ice time.
“He is competing with three or four other guys that everybody assumes are in our lineup for the same position,” Sutter said. “You can’t play them all. We have a 23-man roster and can only dress 18 skaters.”
Dustin Brown stayed active during the lockout by playing in Zurich, Switzerland. Brown said he enjoyed the Swiss lifestyle and his time in Europe was a good experience for his family. More importantly, he said the two months he played in the Swiss League have him in game shape.
“I think it’s different for everyone,” Brown said. “But for me, it just feels like we had a five-or-six day break between games because I have been playing for two months in Switzerland. For some players who haven’t been playing any games this year, it might feel a little different because it’s their first real practice.”
Regardless, the Kings’ captain stressed the importance of making the most the week of practice before Saturday’s noon opener vs. Chicago at STAPLES Center.
“We only have three or four practices to get ready for Saturday,” Brown said, “so it’s important to stay focused on the practice and get what we need to get done.”
STILL THE SAME
Jonathan Quick has seen his individual profile and that of his team rise significantly since last spring’s Stanley Cup triumph. Still, the soft-spoken goaltender from Connecticut says his approach in taking the ice as the hunted will no different than doing so as the hunter.
“You just play hockey,” Quick said.
While Quick admits to looking forward to Saturday’s ceremony honoring the Stanley Cup champs before the season opener, he says once the banner is raised to the STAPLES Center rafters, he won’t even notice it.
“You’ve got to put last year behind you,” Quick said. “Obviously we will relive it a little before our opening game when they raise the banner. That will be pretty special for everyone in here. Right after that, we will snap right out of it and be focused on Game 1 of 48. You are focused on winning a certain amount to be one of the 16 teams that makes the playoffs.”
Like everyone else, Quick despised the lockout. But he believes the resultant 48-game schedule will make for intensely watchable hockey.
“It’s going to make it a little more exciting for the fans and more fun for the players,” Quick said. “With every game meaning so much, you can’t take a night off. Whoever gets the chemistry going first and gets off to a good start will be sitting a little better than most other teams.”
Quick reiterated that his back feels fine after off-season surgery, but said the truncated schedule will necessitate monitoring his workload between games.
“I feel good,” Quick said. “Now it’s all about preparing for Saturday and getting the work load that you need. I don’t want to do too much because we are playing more games per week, so you have to be able to manage yourself in practice.”
WORD’S EYE VIEW
Among the media members on hand at the Toyota Training Center in El Segundo were the Kings’ TV broadcast team of Bob Miller and Jim Fox. The duo’s call of the Kings’ Game 6 Stanley Cup winning win from June 11 can be heard as part of a DVD included in a book commemorating the Kings’ historic run last spring.
Miller said he knew what he would say when the final horn sounded and the Kings’ claimed their first Cup.
“I had it written down, the same way I had it written down when Wayne Gretzky passed Gordie Howe to become the NHL’s all-time scoring leader,” Miller said of his call. “I knew it would be so emotional with the Kings finally winning the Stanley Cup and I didn’t trust my emotions.”
Fox said he had only one objective as he prepared to call the Kings’ Cup clinching victory.
“The one thing in my mind was not to do my normal thing and instead let Bob carry the call,” Fox said. “That’s what fans wanted to hear. The last game was very simple because we had such a big lead. If it had been close, I would have needed to talk strategy, but the way it ended, I was able to let Bob handle the call.”
Miller says his day with the Cup came on June 26th and he had four hours with the greatest trophy in sports. Originally, Miller had planned on an intimate affair at his house, but when his guest list ballooned to 180, he booked a room at Braemar Country Club in Tarzana. “Everyone asked, ‘Can I bring my mom and dad?’” Miller said, adding that it’s impossible to say no when it comes to the Stanley Cup. Among the disparate group of attendees was Miller’s UPS deliveryman. “He’s a huge Kings’ fan,” Miller said. “He stops just to talk hockey, even if he doesn’t have a delivery.”
In all, Miller said he attended 14 different Stanley Cup parties over the summer.
“It never got old, seeing the joy on people’s faces when they see the Cup. They were overjoyed to see, touch, and take a photo with it.”