On whether Alex Iafallo has a goal coming soon, given what he has shown:
Yeah, you know he’s had some good looks. But the one thing we’ve cautioned him about is don’t put results ahead of the process. We think he’s been a really good fit on the line. He brings a lot of things to the line that I think give the line chemistry. He’s got a really good stick. He angles well. He’s tenacious on the forecheck, so I don’t want him to start to squeeze his stick and think about just offense and what the result might be. The process of how they play in the game has been important. They’ve been getting good looks, and I think it’s just a matter of time before he gets rewarded.
On Iafallo earning a healthy amount of ice time:
The games have all been tight Obviously with certain guys out of the lineup we’ve really counted on the Kopitar line a lot. He’s had a little bit of time on the power play, but not a lot. But he’s been killing penalties for us and he’s been a fixture on the line with Kopi and Brownie. He’s in a situation, especially on the road, where he’s playing against top guys all the time, top pairings, and he’s done a good job there. We like the continuity on that line, and that’s probably a big reason why his minutes are where they are.
On any differences to how he sends lines on the ice after a long road trip:
I think it’s an advantage tactically because you get to match most of the time the way you want to match. When you’re on the road, you’re at the mercy a lot of times of what the other team’s doing. I think the bigger issue’s coming off the road. You’ve been on the road for two weeks and you come home and the intensity is to sit back and take a breath, like, ‘whoo, we’re finally off the road.’ You can’t do that. I mean, you’ve got a really strong team coming in here with Toronto. They’re on a road trip, they’re going to try and play simple, they’re going to really come at you hard. There’s no room for putting your feet up and trying to relax a little bit. I think the challenge is to try and get everybody in road mode where you’ve got to continue to play the same way.
On what he’d like to see from the fourth line that could lead to an increase in usage:
If you go back to the back-to-back, I thought they were a real key for us in the Ottawa game. We were able to roll four lines, get good energy. When they’re playing well they’re winning a lot of puck battles and they’re spending most of the time in the offensive zone. I didn’t think we were nearly as effective in the St. Louis game. I think what’s important for them to understand is that if their minutes are only eight-to-10 minutes, they’re a really important eight-to-10 minutes. Sometimes there are special teams involved in that, but if they’re a momentum shift for us, it gives us energy, it allows us to play with pace. If you take two minutes away from the Kopitar line, that’s huge for us, and it’s not just taking minutes away. It’s been really productive momentum shifts for us. That’s what we’d like to see, to duplicate what happened in the Ottawa game where we had the puck a little more with all the time, we were creating chances, drawing penalties, and those are the games where they’re really effective for us.
On what he attributes Adrian Kempe’s recent breakthrough to:
Number one, he’s a real competitive guy, and I think his competitiveness has allowed his skill to come out. We’re really happy with how hard he plays. He’s been one of our best forecheckers, and he plays really hard along the wall. Because he ends up with the puck a lot, we put him with Tanner and Tyler because he’s kind of the same M.O. as Jeff Carter. He carries a lot of speed in the middle of the ice and can come from underneath and create numbers on the rush. He’s been a good fit there. Those guys are used to playing with a guy with speed in the middle and I think those guys have enough experience in the league that they can help a young player like Adrian, and they seemed to have some good chemistry together. I thought that line was really good the other night. I think they really showed some signs of chemistry and are starting to create like they hoped they would, and hopefully that can continue. [Reporter: Right around opening night we spoke about Kempe and wanting to see more consistency on the defensive side of the puck. Are you seeing improvement there?] Yeah, for sure he has. We trust him in a lot of situations. Just the work in progress for him is going to be the faceoff circle. I mean, it’s a new position to him – if you’re a young centerman coming up, it’s a big challenge for somebody that the position is a little bit new. That’s an area we want to continue to work with him. If they can start with the puck a little more I think it’ll be big for us. I think Tanner can help there. Tanner’s actually pretty good in the faceoff circle, too. He’s coming along. He had the game before that where he was actually pretty good, so sometimes it’s almost there and then all of a sudden it clicks, so we think that part of the game is going to come along.
On Michael Amadio’s first three NHL games:
The one thing we wanted to see from him, we knew he was skilled. Just wanted to see how hard he was going to be on the puck and see how he handled the play down low because we knew he was going to see lots of that, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised. So I think he positions himself well. He’s got a strong stick on the puck, he’s been able to get plays stopped up and when he does get the puck, he’s able to skate pucks out of trouble because he’s got a real good sense of awareness. I think he’s come in and done a good job for us. [Reporter: He came out of junior pretty sound defensively.] Yeah, but he was a big scorer in junior, too. He’s a 50-goal scorer in the Ontario Hockey League. I thought this year was the first year you really saw him where he was a noticeable guy in training camp. He jumped out at you a little bit and then he went down there and played well in Ontario. It takes time for these young players, and I think he’s taking a real big step in his game, and that’s the reason he’s here.
-Lead photo via Jon Bradley
-Several ommitted quotes were used in this morning’s practice notes