While Derek Forbort has fared well while stepping into a wider role alongside Drew Doughty – for more context on this, Helene Elliott’s recent story is a good read – the Kings are also banking on another less experienced player slotted to the left of a more tenured veteran.
Matt Greene and Tom Gilbert have come in and out of the lineup for each other based on lineup needs and their own performance, and recently Greene has formed a solid third-pairing partnership with rookie Kevin Gravel, a chemistry that has served the team well during its four-game winning streak. Both players are averaging low-to-mid “teen-minutes” with each other, to borrow a term from Darryl Sutter, and they’ve been on the ice for only one goal against during the winning streak.
“I think Kevin’s playing great, he does a good job of skating, moving the puck well, which helps me a lot and I think he’s just been playing really well,” Greene said. “Really sound defensively and doing a great job for us.”
Greene isn’t as mobile as Gravel, though his presence as a rugged and situational defender has been lifted by the partnership; he says there’s additional refinement he’d like in his game. I spoke with the veteran earlier today about the pairing, and he provided an interesting scouting report.
Matt Greene, on Kevin Gravel’s ability to play at an NHL pace:
He’s real solid and a lot of times too, once you do come up from the AHL to the NHL guys are actually in better position. Especially as a defenseman, you know your wingers are right where they’re supposed to be and they’re working hard for you the game is actually a little bit easier in terms of moving the puck. I thought he’s done a great job of that, defensively he’s been great. He uses his reach really well, he’s got a great stick. He turns over pucks and he moves them up the ice really fast for us and that’s what Darryl and the coaches want us to do and he’s done a great job of it.
Greene, on Gravel winning battles without being the most physical player on the ice:
It’s angles, it’s playing through guys and that’s been going on for a long time with hockey. You’ve got to have a good angle on a guy, good position on a guy before you can really try and be physical with anyone or else you’re going to get beat and I think he does a good job of establishing that first and being physical through that and playing through a guy’s hands and he does a good job.
Greene, on whether he’s happy with his own game:
Just trying to get better, just trying to get back in the swing of things and keep pace like Kevin. Kevin and Derek have been great for me when I’ve been in the lineup, and I’m just trying to keep pace with them and get better and get back to normal.
Greene, on whether he’s happy with his play when coming back in after sitting a few games:
No, it’s got to keep getting better for me. I think I’ve been off for a while and I’ve just got to establish a rhythm and keep getting better. Get my game back to where it was before the injuries happened.
Greene, on what needs to improve with his own game:
Just speed, speed of the game and details and like we talked about, the angles – they make a big difference. You can make your life a lot easier for yourself if you’re really on with your angles and your skating and your puck handling and I think all of that can get a lot better for me. Just makes the game easier for myself if you sharpen those areas.