Some notes from today’s 10 a.m. practice from Citizens Business Bank Arena. We’re one day away from the home opener Friday night at 7 p.m. against Bakersfield.
–Jordan Samuels-Thomas was on the ice after being called up from Manchester. “We brought him up because we didn’t know about Biss’ situation,” head coach Mike Stothers said after practice. Veteran Paul Bissonnette missed his second straight practice with a lower-body injury and will indeed miss the home opener. Samuels-Thomas skated as a fourth man on one of the Reign forward lines and led the team in stretches at the center-ice circle. “I found out yesterday and I got a good skate in in Manchester and hopped on the airplane and 10 hours later, something like that, I was here,” Samuels-Thomas said. “It’s been a good 24 hours, it’s always exciting getting called up.” Stothers on the call-up and the great impression JST made in camp: “He really jumped out at us as a coaching staff for his positional play, real strong up and down the wing, real strong along the wall and down low. Looks like he’s got some scoring ability, looks like he’s got some hands to go along with that size and strength.”
–Lots of system work today as was to be expected after talking with head coach Mike Stothers on Wednesday. That kind of work opened up the door for some stern moments from Stothers, especially early in the practice. There were good battles during a full-ice 1-on-1 drill. A typical high-intensity skate the day before a game. No surprise that this one didn’t last very long, about 45 minutes of full work before players broke off to work on individual skills. “I wasn’t real impressed with the start of the practice, you try to emphasize the fact that slow starts tend to fall behind in a hockey game,” Stothers said after practice. “We don’t want to have that happen, we want to guard against things like that. We want to be the team that’s jumping out of the gates and playing well right from the get-go. It was a little bit of a sluggish start for me today and I thought the practice as it went on the guys got better and better and to the point at the end of it I was quite satisfied. Just an early-morning wake-up call I guess.”
–Adrian Kempe had two great goals from the high slot in practice, one resulting in Stothers stopping practice to talk about how Kempe’s positioning resulted in the goal. Kempe has two points in the first three games, but has been held without a goal. “He’s got a wealth of talent, he’s unbelievable the skillset that he has,” Stothers said. “He can skate as fast carrying the puck as he can without it which not many players can do. His skating and his hockey sense set him apart.” Stothers went on to note that Kempe needs to be determined in the tougher areas of the ice, something he saw in Kempe when he joined the Monarchs during the Calder Cup playoffs last season. We’ll see tomorrow night if we see that Kempe answering his coach’s challenge.
–Stothers on the look of his group going into the home opener: “One thing I know is we’ve got some good character on our team, we’ve got some real good leaders and they’ll help the youth and inexperience that we may have. I know there’s going to be moments, just as there was this morning in practice. There’s going to be moments in the game, moments in the course of the season where we’re not going to be as fluid or as efficient as maybe I would like us to be but that’s part of the development of these younger guys and that’s part of playing in the American Hockey League. That’s why these guys are here, those hiccups, if we can eliminate those and operate on all cylinders then they have a better chance of playing for the Kings.”