One of the primary stories through training camp has been the competition on the Kings’ blue line. Darryl Sutter previously offered a hint that the team could open the season with eight defensemen while stating that other than the spots belonging to Drew Doughty, Robyn Regehr, Slava Voynov and Matt Greene, there were positional battles to be waged to round out the team’s defense.
Well, if we’re healthy, nobody’s taking Drew’s place. Nobody’s taking Slava’s place. Nobody’s taking Greener’s place. Nobody’s taking Robyn’s place. After that, there’s holes there. There’s boxes that don’t have a name in there yet. So, who’s going to be Drew’s partner? Who’s going to be Slava’s partner? Who’s going to be Greener’s partner, and who’s going to be our seventh guy, and who’s going to be our eighth guy? Because you can’t have nine. [Reporter: So is the thought to start the year with eight defensemen?] I really don’t know that yet. I mean, if you start with eight, then you’re going 13 forwards, so I really don’t know. We’re not to that point yet.
The team practiced on Monday color coded by line pairings. Dustin Brown and Jake Muzzin did not participate. There are still three exhibition games to be played – and observers shouldn’t put an enormous amount of emphasis into alignments midway through the preseason – but judging from some of the line rushes, there were some indications towards where players were at, and where they could be used in upcoming games against Anaheim, the New York Rangers and Colorado.
White: King – Kopitar – Williams – Regehr – Doughty
Maroon: Frattin – Richards – Carter – Mitchell – Voynov
Powder Blue: Clifford – Stoll – Lewis – Martinez – Greene
Yellow: Carcillo – Fraser – Nolan – Forbort – Ellerby
Black: Pearson – Vey – Shore – Toffoli – Schultz – Bodnarchuk
On Sunday, Gann Matsuda of Frozen Royalty and I chatted with Keaton Ellerby, one of the players in heavy competition for a spot on the blue line. Ellerby’s comments are below; follow the link for Matsuda’s feature, LA Kings Defenseman Keaton Ellerby: “You’re Always Battling For A Spot”
Keaton Ellerby, on training camp:
I think it’s gone pretty good. Just trying to go out there and work hard and do what the coaches ask me to do, and just play my game. I think it’s gone good so far.
Ellerby, on what the coaches have asked him to do:
Just be a big, physical, good defensive penalty killing D, I guess. Get back, move pucks up quickly. Don’t slow it down. Just get the puck in the hands of the forwards as fast as possible, and keep the puck out of our net. I’m thinking the two games I’ve played, I’ve done a pretty good job of that so far, and I just try to keep building on it, keep working with the coaches, and just keep working hard.
Ellerby, on the surplus defensemen:
It’s part of the game, you know? You’ve got to be mentally strong, and just persevere through whatever ups and downs are thrown your way. I’m 24-years-old, so I hope I’ve got a long career ahead of me. You’re always battling for a spot, you know, so I think it’s a lot of perseverance and just working hard and doing what the coaches expect of you. I think if you do that, and do that day in and day out, you’ll get your opportunities, and then when you get those opportunities, just take advantage of them and do your best.
Ellerby, on whether he thinks about the competition:
You see it, you think about it, but you can’t let it affect you. You play your game and do what you’ve got to do to win a spot in the lineup. Nothing’s ever given to you, so you’ve got to just work through it and do the best you can day in and day out.
Ellerby, on whether he thinks about what he needs to do to stand out:
I mean, sometimes. I’ve talked with the coaches a lot already this year, and last year worked a lot with the coaching staff. I mean, my game is being a defensive guy and killing penalties – just not letting the opposition score on us. Just excelling at those things. I mean, me and John Stevens have talked a lot about penalty killing being a huge part of my game going forward, so you’ve just got to work on that, do a lot of video with him, and just make that a staple of my game and five-on-five play, just be a hard-nosed, physical defenseman who doesn’t get scored on and contributes offensively when possible. If I do those things, and just keep working at ‘em, and then keep getting better, I think I’ll be already.
Darryl Sutter, on Ellerby’s training camp:
Keaton’s played really well for us. He did a good job training this summer. He’s played really well. He’s got some jump in his game. We’ve liked the way he’s played.