Stevens on Muzzin-Martinez, Gravel, making use of the flight to China - LA Kings Insider

On whether his feet hurt after three on-ice sessions:
Yeah, they actually did, a little bit, but it’s OK.

On the power play units, and using an extra forward up top on the first unit:
I think the first day you want to try different things and see how it looks. The one thing we did do, we did some research and I think 80% of the teams in the league use four forwards on their first unit. You’ve got a guy like Tyler that I think’s an elite scorer in the league. You’ve got a lot of pieces there. It’s not that we don’t think two D works, but it’s certainly something based on what’s gone on around the league and the success that teams have had, to look at putting guys together that have a high, high offensive hockey IQ is something that I think’s worth looking at. And not only that, every guy on the ice is responsible defensively, so you’re not taking a huge amount of risk to get the puck back, or teams attack the other way. You’ve got Kopi, Carts, Ty, they’re all really, really responsible guys. They’re three of the better two-way players in the league, so we think it’s worth looking at, and that’s something that we want to take a longer look at.

On where the Muzzin-Martinez pairing can improve:
They’ve got to be a lot better than they were last year as a pair. You’ve got a pair that was plus hockey players, and then you’ve got a pair that was a big minus. Good teams don’t have that. They’ve both been really good players, they’ve both won Cups here, so they know what it takes to win. We need Muzz being the shutdown guy that he can be. He needs to be really good defensively, he needs to shut down plays on the rush, he needs to be really heavy down low, and when he does that, it seems like it fuels the rest of his game. Last year he seemed like he wasn’t nearly as good defensively as he’s capable of, and he knows that. We’ve talked about that, and the pair should complement each other. Marty’s a really good defender and he’s a good puck mover. They both make a lot of plays. We think it has the making of a good pair. At times last year it wasn’t. We still believe it can be. Marty’s obviously a guy that can play both sides of the rink, left or right, but he almost prefers the right now, over the left. So we still have a lot of confidence that in can be a good pair, we just need to see it.

On Kevin Gravel:
Kevin, he was in a position last year where I think he got some experience in the league. I think there were some inconsistencies with his game. I think he’s a kid that’s a really good athlete, he just needs to get stronger, but he’s another kid that we’re very confident on the upside that he has, so he’s kind of a blend where he defends well, he’s got a good stick, he gets to pucks quickly, he’s got good mobility and he’s got good puck skills. We’ve yet to see the consistency in his game that tells us exactly who he is as a player, but we’re still pretty optimistic that he can be a pretty good player, and again, there’s another player who can play the left or right, which is a pretty valuable guy to have.

On systematic changes and ensuring the push for offense doesn’t affect the solid defensive play:
We’re not changing any of our commitment to getting the puck back. Our tracking scheme is the same, there are a few little tweaks in our defensive zone just based on what’s gone on in the league, but if anything, we want to get the puck back quicker, we want to play hard and fast defensively like we always have. I mean, let’s face it, we’ve had the puck a lot. We’ve had the puck a lot and we haven’t spent a lot of time in our own zone, so I think there’s a lot of stuff that we want to really keep that’s been really good, but analytics tells us it’s there in black and white that we don’t do enough offensively and that we really have to try and improve in those areas. And again, it’s not from taking risk, it’s not from sending four guys below the goal line, it’s not from cheating in on pucks or anything else. It’s just trying to get some better guidelines with a better middle lane drive, maybe using the back of the net more offensively, having a higher guy in the offensive zone. You look at other teams and you study them and where the offense comes from, we’re trying to implement a little bit of structure that’ll help us there, and at the same time giving the players freedom to make plays and be the players that they are.

On the balance between the China trip being taxing and a rewarding experience:
It’s exciting when you look at it. I really like the way the trip is positioned. We’re four days into camp, and then you go away for a week, and then you still have a significant amount of time before you start the regular season. I think it’s positioned perfectly because there will be a physical toll on the hockey team, but having said that, it’s a great opportunity to get away, spend time together. Hopefully we really root some relationships within our group and get some quality practice time in the two games and experience a culture that most if not all of the players have never had a chance to experience. To me, the icing on the cake is you just get an opportunity to grow the game in a country that’s not familiar with it. To me, that’s exciting. But there are some challenges, and it’s going to be a tough trip, I think, by the time we get back and have traveled so far. To me, the overall sense from our hockey club is excitement about going. [Reporter: Is the biggest adjustment coming back, maybe?] It depends who you talk to. We’ve had a lot of people in our company that have gone both ways. [Video Coordinator] Samson Lee’s gone to Taiwan quite a bit, over and back. Some people think coming back’s easier. I always find going west easier when you gain time, but I don’t think anyone’s that familiar going east or west with a 15-hour time change. We’ve had some consulting done with us, a sleep expert, just to try and manage that, and we think we’ve got a pretty good plan to try and minimize the jet lag or any overhang from the trip, but time will tell. [Reporter: You have any in flight movies queued up and ready to go?] I don’t. We’ve got lots of work to do. We’re going to do some stuff on the plane, give us an opportunity to meet with player. We think the fitness results on the players is tremendous. I think it’s important we sit down with each player and look at that. Just talk about camp so far, expectations moving forward. There’s an opportunity for coaches to sit down with, whether D-pairs, lines, look at some things to keep them interactive. They’re going to sleep for a little bit on the plane, but there’s a plan to get everybody up and keep them awake so we don’t get to China and be wide awake, because if we slept the whole trip – Matt Price has even put together a little dynamic warm-up or activity if the guys want to get up and move around the plane. That’s offered and available to them, if they want. There’s been a lot of planning and prep done to try and give the players every opportunity to feel good when they go over there and fully recover when they get back. [Reporter: So from the time you all get on the plane until you sleep your first night in China, how much sleep – I don’t know if I’m getting too specific here – but how much sleep are you looking at on the plane?] Ideally we’re going to get on, eat right away, and usually that’s what happens. Even when we go all the way east on a trip, guys sleep on the trip there, so that’s probably the window we’re looking at – four or five hours, max. Generally they’ll be up for a good eight hours or so, and then you get in there and it’s night time. Have a meal, go for a walk, possibly, and then they’re going to have an opportunity to sleep in because we practice late the first day we’re over there. So we think that works. We’re hoping it works, but I’ve never gone that far around the world and had to deal with that much of achange. We think it’s set up good the way it is. [Reporter: How many goalies are you taking?] Three. [Reporter: For the guys that stay here, will Stutts coach those guys?] Yeah, that whole staff will. We’ll take 26 players with us.

On whether a reporter could ask a question about the lineup for the preseason opener:
Can you? You can. Do I know what it is? Yeah. [Reporter: Is it mostly guys from that B-group?] There’s a good chance, yeah.

On how he’ll assign minutes to goalies in the preseason:
What they need to get ready, yeah. I mean, I think especially with Quicker, he missed an awful lot of time, and I think it’s important to get him the work he needs, but at the same time, there are some other guys we really want to evaluate, so we’ll get them some time in the net. Johnny will get what he needs. I would suspect that he would play in most of the games we have available to us, just because of the way they’re spread out, but Billy and I are still forming a plan, what’s best for him. He’s had some really good work here. I thought he was great today. I thought it was the best day of the camp for him today, but I’ll lean on Billy heavily for that because Billy has a lot of experience with him, knows where Johnny’s at, knows what he needs. He’ll have a lot of input in that decision.

-Lead photo via Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

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