Good afternoon to you from the little town we know as El Segundo. Here are the line rushes and defensive pairings expected for tonight’s season opener against the Philadelphia Flyers (7:00 p.m. / NBCSN / KABC 790 / I Heart Radio):
-The #LAKingsGoalieTweetOff was purely academic today. Jonathan Quick left the ice first at the morning skate and is expected to draw the start against Philadelphia.
-Alec Martinez, who is day-to-day with a lower-body injury, was officially placed on injured reserve, and Paul LaDue was called up. LaDue is not expected to play tonight; other scratches are expected to be Nic Dowd and Andy Andreoff.
Addition to what @lakingsinsider reported last night, my understanding is Alec Martinez injury not serious. Maybe a couple games, at most.
— lisa dillman (@reallisa) October 5, 2017
John Stevens acknowledged it’s difficult to lose Martinez, who had four points (1-3=4) in four preseason games and looked very good reprising his partnership with Jake Muzzin, but he understands that there are others capable of stepping up and contributing. “Next man up,” he said. “We’ve had other guys here that had great summers and are dying for an opportunity to get in and play. We’re excited for the player who’s going to get a chance to play who wasn’t going to play, and we’re going to need more from other guys. [Martinez] is a big part of our team, no question, but I don’t think it’s going to be long term, and we’re going to need somebody else to step up in his absence.”
-Three players are expected to make their NHL debuts in Oscar Fantenberg, Alex Iafallo and Kurtis McDermid. Both Iafallo and Fantenberg will be playing in front of their parents, while Fantenberg’s fiance will also be in attendance.
-There are heavy amounts of penalties early in the season. Does anyone remember that Kings-Oilers game that came three games into the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season? (Nail Yakupov probably does.) The two teams combined for 17 power plays, and my word, that game wasn’t exactly the second coming of the 1972 Summit Series. In any case, history says there should be ample special teams time.
“It doesn’t change your game plan or how you want to play. Just try to be as disciplined as possible,” Dustin Brown said.
“Well, we had good practice in the preseason,” he continued. “The first game, or in China, I think we had 12 penalties, so that’s almost half the game on PK or whatever. It’s definitely not what you want. You want a much more flowing game. If you’re not a special teams guy, you’ve got to stay focused and do the best you can, given the situation of the game. Ideally, early on, you want to get four lines rolling, six D, and get everyone into it early.”
Last night’s NHL action produced 35 power plays in four games – interestingly, the outlier was three power plays in the Battle of Alberta – which is completely in line with officiating tendencies early in the season. Stevens echoed Brown’s sentiments, sharing that “it doesn’t affect game planning, just that your special teams need some special attention.”
Stevens continued: “You look at the game last night, and Philadelphia had three [power play] goals, and San Jose had two. So usually games are decided three-two, and the special teams alone had a big factor in it. When you’re getting five, six power plays a side, I think you do have to look at personnel, I think you have to have a third unit on your power play ready to go, and I think you have to have a lot of penalty killers at your disposal if it gets extended with lots of time on the penalty kill. A little different last night because Philadelphia scored so quickly, so it wasn’t a long time on the special teams in terms of that, but the opportunities are there, and again, I think we’ve got to do our part to try and stay out of those situations. If there are penalties called from playing the game hard or negating a scoring opportunity it’s one thing, but in terms of the way they’re cracking down on those penalties, I think we really have to continue to remind the guys on what’s being called and teach it better so we’re not getting called as many times.”
-The Flyers relied on four goals from former Kings in their 5-3 win at San Jose last night, with Wayne Simmonds notching his second career regular season hat trick. “He’s become a really good player in the league, and he’s one of the star power forwards in the game right now. He doesn’t just go to the net, he’s really good around the net,” Stevens said. “He’s got great hands around the net, he reads off the puck really well. That element around the net, I think, is really difficult to contain, but certainly he’s someone to be aware of. You better get your hard had and work boots on when he’s out there, because he’s going to compete.”
South Jersey Courier-Post Flyers beat writer Dave Isaac shared a projected line-up for the visitors earlier this morning that includes the following lines and pairings: Giroux-Couturier-Voracek, Weal-Patrick-Simmonds, Weise-Filppula-Konecny and Leier-Laughton-Raffl up front, with defensive pairings of Provorov-MacDonald, Manning-Gudas and Gostisbehere-Hagg. Michal Neuvirth is the projected starter after Brian Elliott made his Philadelphia debut in the win over San Jose. The Flyers did not hold a full-team morning skate this morning, so it’s not possible to get a clear, firm understanding of their lineup.
-An important message from Kings President Luc Robitaille:
Kudos to Anze Kopitar for again speaking on the horrific events that occurred Sunday night in Las Vegas that claimed the life of Christiana Duarte, a Kings employee. “It’s for sure going to be emotional,” he said. “The events that happened in Vegas are tragic, and I don’t think there’s a word in the vocabulary that can really describe it. The emotions for her family – I don’t know if they’re going to be in the building or not – but it’s obviously very sad times. We’ll remember her and pay her a tribute, but at the same time, as soon as the puck drops, we’ve got to be ready. We’ll use that as a positive energy and get the game going.” (For a statement Kopitar shared yesterday, and to learn about how the Kings will honor Duarte and the victims and heroes from last Sunday at tonight’s game, click here.)
To support the family and offer contributions to the Go Fund Me page set up in Christiana’s honor and memory, click here.
-Lead photo via Dave Sandford/NHLI