Good afternoon from #Gundo, Insiders. I wish I had more for you, but remorsefully, I come to you with the news that today’s morning skate was optional and no real line rushes were held. Darryl Sutter said after the skate that all active players will take the ice for warm-ups and decisions will be made prior to game time. If I were a betting man (I am!), I’d expect the same defensemen to suit up for tonight’s game. A family event kept me away from practice yesterday, where line rushes were held, but the word I was hearing following the skate was that there could theoretically be changes to the bottom six. Andy Andreoff skated as a center yesterday, for what it’s worth.
A few assorted notes:
-Peter Budaj was the first goalie off the ice and is expected to start against Florida. This normally wouldn’t be newsworthy – he’s started the last nine games – but tonight’s game is the front end of a back-to-back, so the #LAKingsGoalieTweetOff applies. Jonathan Quick didn’t skate this morning, but Jordan Nolan joined the skate midway through and was wearing a red no-contact jersey, as seen below.
-The Panthers are fully healthy and have won six of seven games, with the loss to the Kings on February 9 in Sunrise serving as their lone setback. In their last six games, they’ve scored 28 goals. “Number one, their defense leads the league in shots for,” Darryl Sutter said. “They’re second in even strength goals from their defense, their centermen since they got Barkov back, with Trocheck and Barkov, one guy’s got 20 goals, one guy’s missed 15 games and got 13 goals. They’ve got two really good lines because they do that. Huberdeau’s been back for five games. Excellent young player.” Florida won 4-1 in Anaheim last night behind James Reimer’s 35 saves. Because Roberto Luongo left Wednesday’s win at San Jose with cramps late in the game, it’s possible that L.A. could see Reimer on the second night of a back-to-back. (Luongo is fine and likely available to start; no announcement or report has surfaced yet.) Both goalies were pulled in the Kings’ 6-3 win nine days ago; goaltending did not work in the Cats’ favor that game, Florida’s first after their five-day bye week.
-Kevin Gravel might not play tonight but has largely looked fine in his first nearly-full NHL season. What could the defenseman do to raise his time on ice average, which is shy of 14 minutes? “I think I can become a little bit harder to play against, whether it’s down low or anywhere,” he said. “With my stick, my body, anything. There’s a lot of very skilled forwards out there on the other teams and they’re good down low and I think something I can improve on is my below the goal line play. Whether it be finishing a guy off or using my stick to kind of end the play and get it up to our forwards, you’ve just got to continue to work on that, obviously. Add strength and all that, so it’s something that I’ve been trying to get better at.”
-More Darryl Sutter to come shortly, Insiders. Tonight’s officials are referees Chris Lee and Mike Leggo and linesmen Brad Kovachik and Kiel Murchison. The national anthem will be performed by Dana Lee Ryan. Let’s talk soon.
Morning skate photos, courtesy of Jon Bradley: