Good afternoon to you from El Segundo, Insiders. Jeff Carter arrived on the ice 10 minutes in advance of today’s 10:00 a.m. practice, and after he finished working on his wrist shot from the high slot, the Kings were aligned and color-coded as such:
-Defensive pairings were fluid throughout practice; I’ll share those tomorrow, should the team get five-on-five work in.
–As noted earlier, Oscar Fantenberg now wears #7, Adrian Kempe is #9, Jonny Brodzinski is #17 and Alex Iafallo is #19. As he explained today, Kempe, who wore nine in Ontario, chose the number in part because of his appreciation for Atlético Madrid and Spain international striker Fernando Torres, who, like Kempe, has exceptional hair. Brodzinski, who wore 22 at St. Cloud, is obviously blocked from that number by 506-game veteran Trevor Lewis. He was ready to move on from his camp number, 76, and 17 was one of the five or six numbers available below 30.
-Marian Gaborik continues to progress, according to John Stevens, but he hasn’t been on the ice since early last week. That raises the inevitable and dreaded S-word. Has Gaborik experienced a “setback?”
“I don’t know if it was a ‘setback.’ We didn’t really put a timetable on anything,” said Stevens, who suspects Gaborik will return to the ice soon. “…They felt he could use some rest, maintenance days. We wanted to give it to him and make sure he kept progressing in a positive manner. I wouldn’t say a big ‘setback’ by any means.”
There’s no timetable here. Stevens reiterated that Gaborik will need rest “at certain times.” He also said that the forward continues to progress, and that the prevailing thrust encompasses a season-long approach where the team may “give him a few days to gain a week or a week to gain a month” if it means avoiding a setback.
“We’ll just wait and see,” Stevens said. “I think we’re going to err on the side of caution.”
-Brooks Laich is still practicing with the team, an open-ended arrangement that does not at this point have any set conclusion.
“He’s been given an opportunity to stay here and continue to practice with the team,” John Stevens said. “I thought he played well the game he played in. I think he’s a good pro. He still skates well, and he does a lot of little things well. I think it’s a situation that works good for him and for us now.”
Laich, whose PTO expired at the end of training camp, last played in the NHL when he split time with Washington and Toronto in 2015-16, totaling two goals and 14 points in 81 games. Last season he battled through a shoulder injury and appeared in 27 games with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies, totaling one goal and nine points in 27 games before his season ended when he underwent March elbow surgery, according to the Toronto Sun.
But even while Laich has spent the last several years in Washington and Toronto, he spends his off-seasons in the Los Angeles area and has been a regular participant in the pre-camp on-ice sessions heavily populated by the Kings who have arrived back in town and other players who have ties to the area. His preference is to remain with the Kings should an opportunity more firmly materialize, and at this point that remains his clear focus.
“My mindset is here, at the time, definitely,” Laich said. “I’m local. I live here [and] would prefer to be in this organization. Really enjoy the guys. I’ve known the guys for three summers now. In my brief time here I’ve really enjoyed the staff, so my focus is on the LA Kings and a potential opportunity here, and if that doesn’t present itself in some time, then maybe we’ll explore somewhere else. But all I can really give you is what my mindset is today, and that’s to show up and act like I’m a part of the Los Angeles Kings until I’m told otherwise.”
Essentially, that’s the understanding between player and team. He doesn’t have a contract, but he does have a stall erected in the team’s dressing room, and in one preseason game, he scored the game-winning goal in a 3-2 win at Vegas. On Tuesday, he skated between Andy Andreoff and Nic Dowd. At this point, he’s going to continue to “be a good pro, be a good teammate.”
“Showed up this morning with a smile on my face,” Laich said. “I have to be a little patient, I think, for an opportunity, but I’m willing to do that at the moment and keep working and working towards playing in the NHL this year.”
It’s a new episode in a career that has drawn appreciation from the coaches, players, broadcasters and media he’s worked alongside.
“Yeah, certainly a little bit of foreign territory for me, but we’re going to try and leave that part out of it,” Laich said. “…Be grateful for the opportunity, show up as a good pro and show up as a good teammate. I’m going to focus on those things, and I believe that good things happen to good people, and if you do things right that over the long term, you’re going to win out, eventually. So maybe it’s not today, maybe it’s not tomorrow, but I hope at some point my opportunity will come with this organization. Until that day, I’m just going to keep working, be a good pro, be a good teammate and enjoy my time here.”
-More to come from Alex Iafallo, Stevens and others. Enjoy your Tuesday, Insiders.
-Lead photo via David Becker/NHLI