Good afternoon from sunny and clear Denver. The Kings took the Pepsi Center ice at 11:30 a.m. and did not hold any real line rushes, though line rush-type drills that they took part in seemed to suggest the same forward group as used in the Anaheim game. Several additional notes:
-Paul LaDue was not on the ice, nor was he seen in the Kings’ dressing room. Earlier correspondence with hockey operations elicited a “not sure” answer when it was asked if there is anything he’s currently “dealing with,” and Darryl Sutter declined to offer any update. Given this, it’s probably safe to assume he’s not playing tonight. I have another email in and will share additional details should or when I receive them. LaDue logged 17:56 in the 1-0 loss to Anaheim on Sunday – his highest TOI since joining the team – and was on the ice with Peter Budaj pulled, according to the play-by-play log.
-For the first time since his muscle pull against Colorado on February 1, Jordan Nolan participated in in a morning skate or practice from its outset without wearing an off-colored jersey. The Kings have an open roster spot at the moment, but don’t expect Nolan to be activated and get into tonight’s game; he’ll still need some more time. Nolan remained on the ice with Andy Andreoff, so Andreoff likely remains out tonight. Jonathan Quick was also among the goaltending consortium on the ice. Budaj was the first goalie off and is expected to start against the Avalanche.
-Matt Duchene leads all qualified NHL skaters in faceoff percentage at 62.8%, and as a team Colorado ranks second at 53.6%. Nic Dowd doesn’t have along history of facing off at the dot against Duchene, but did pick up some interesting bits. “I’ve only taken a couple against him, but if he’s a lefty and the ref’s on his left side, he’s going to shove that left foot forward, and then as he goes forward with that left foot he’s going to bring his stick through with his hand turned over on his backhand so it makes it pretty challenging for you to even get your stick in there, because his skate’s stopping the other guy’s stick.” When asked whether there were any other players who used similar tactics as Duchene, Dowd named Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux and Ottawa’s J-P Pageau off the top of his head. Los Angeles ranks 10th at 50.6% on the draw, and Dowd clocks in at 49.0%. Does he ever pick up new techniques from anyone he faces? “If guys are comfortable with what they’re doing, guys are much more apt to stay with what they’re doing and try and beat a guy,” he said. “You know what guys are doing around the league. You’ve either played against them or watched it on film and most of the guys trust in what they’re doing and every now and then guys will switch stuff up if they notice a tendency that guys are doing over and over and over. But other than that, it doesn’t change all that much.”
-Calvin Pickard will start in net for the Avs, who will be without Nikita Zadorov (broken ankle), Rene Bourque (concussion) and Erik Johnson (leg). Johnson, who will miss his 35th game of the season tonight, is expected to return later this week but was ruled out tonight. Because Zadorov’s injury occurred in practice yesterday and Colorado hasn’t recalled anyone from AHL-San Antonio, the team currently has only six healthy defensemen. Terry Frei of the Denver Post spoke with Jarome Iginla earlier today; the future Hall of Famer is hoping to get traded to a playoff team, as reported by Joshua Cooper of Puck Daddy during the Avs’ game in Los Angeles earlier this month, and hasn’t decided whether he’ll play an additional season, via Frei.
-Tonight’s officials are referees TJ Luxmore and Marc Joannette, and linesmen Kiel Murchison and Matt MacPherson. Darryl Sutter quotes will follow. Let’s talk soon, Insiders.