Several quick notes to pass along to you, Insiders.
-The Kings host the Carolina Hurricanes at 7:30 p.m. tonight at Staples Center (FOX Sports West / FOX Sports GO / FUBO TV / KABC 790 / I Heart Radio). The Whalers left Hartford more than two decades ago, but their legacy lives on.
BE IN YOUR SEATS BY 6:15. MAYBE EVEN 5:45 JUST TO MAKE SURE. https://t.co/02l7o35YAJ
— Jon Rosen (@lakingsinsider) December 9, 2017
— Dieter Ruehle (@DieterRuehle) December 9, 2017
-Of substance, Milford native Jonathan Quick was the first goalie off the ice and is projected to start against the Hurricanes. He’s 4-2-0 with a 1.92 goals-against average, a .936 save percentage and one shutout against Connecticut’s former team. Carolina, under the structured and detail-oriented Bill Peters, generally employs systematic team play that leads to effective forechecking.
“I think the underlying analytics tells you exactly what you’re saying,” John Stevens said when asked about their team speed and pressure. “They’re a very, very effective forecheck team. They get more chances off the forecheck – they’re top-three in the league in that category. They’re top-three in shots from the slot, O-zone play. When you watch them play, you understand why. They’ve got tenacious forwards that skate, angle and check really well. They have very good sticks, and they’re relentless on the pucks. Even with the change in sides, they’re not pulling off. So, they force a lot of turnovers because of that, and they create a lot from their forecheck – as much if not more than any team in the league.”
They’re also in the middle of a six-city trip that began in Vancouver and will end in Buffalo and are 0-1-1 thus far after surrendering a three-goal lead and losing 5-4 in overtime at San Jose on Thursday. Cam Ward allowed five goals on 33 shots in the loss and has very good numbers against Los Angeles in his career, going 5-3-2 with a 2.08 goals-against average and a .927 save percentage. Scott Darling, who has made 20 appearances this season to Ward’s eight, also has solid numbers against the Kings, going 1-0-2 with a 1.97 GAA and a .938 save percentage. Because the Clippers face the Washington Wizards at Staples Center this afternoon, there’s no Carolina morning skate and the starting goaltender and lineups will be revealed during warm-ups.
Should Ward get the nod, there would be three former Conn Smythe Trophy winners playing tonight between Quick, Ward and Justin Williams, who has five goals and 19 points in 27 games after signing a two-year, $9-million contract with his former club on July 1.
-Tonight will be Marian Gaborik’s 998th career game played. Barring anything unforeseen, he’s due to claim his silver stick at Madison Square Garden on December 15 against the Rangers, with whom he totaled 114 goals and 229 points in 255 games from 2009-13.
John Stevens quotes!
On why the team has been so good on the road, and how difficult it is to win on the road:
I’m not sure, to be honest with you. I think when you go on the road – and we’ve had tough trips – it forces you to be ready, so you’ve really got to bear down on the trip. So, we’ve tried in the past where a couple years ago we weren’t very good on our long trips, and we really thought it cost us points in the standings. On the west coast here with the Kings, we usually have four big trips a year, so we kind of look at those trips as their own little segments and really try and bear down and be successful in those situations with back-to-back and long trips, and I think the added focus in those areas and the preparation on the road, the guys have done a good job with that. But I think being on the road against good teams forces you to be ready, and guys have played well. They’ve played hard. I think you’ve got to play hard on the road, I think you’ve got to get contributions from everybody, because the match-ups are going to be out of your hands a little bit, and we’ve had all of that.
On whether the team has the ability to morph to different styles against different teams:
I think the one thing we’ve tried to remind ourselves is that you’re going to play teams that have different types of identities, but we’re trying to make sure that the game has our identity to it, and sometimes we’ve fallen into the trap where there’s Toronto, a highly skilled rush team, and we don’t want to become a highly skilled rush team against them. We still want to play the way that we want to play but be aware with what they’re doing. I do think we have the ability to create off the rush, and I do think that our forecheck is an area of our game that’s getting better and better, so I think we do have the type of team that can create from different areas of the game, not just rush and not just zone. I think we are a good offense where we can create from both of those situations.
On the game sheet showing heavy turnovers against Ottawa, and whether it was a concern:
On the NHL spreadsheet? I don’t even look at that. [Reporter: I didn’t think so. Was it a game that maybe you felt that you didn’t manage the puck as well as you had?] It just depends. I thought there were certain situations – they play a little bit of a different style. They play a 2-1-2 where they’re going to push two guys to the goal line. Their D are always pushing down-wall, so it’s going to lend itself to a lot of wall play, and that might come up with what they term giveaways and turnovers. To us, a chip past a pinching D is a good play, and the same thing in the neutral zone with Ottawa. They play a 1-3-1, so they’ve got four guys back all the time. They don’t give you a lot of rush opportunities unless there’s clear-cut numbers, and we had lots of those, especially with the Toffoli-Pearson line. But it forces you to put pucks behind them. I think sometimes those are interpreted as turnovers. We actually thought we managed the puck fairly well. The biggest concern coming out of that game was our special teams, to be honest with you.
On Jussi Jokinen, and how he has been since the trade:
Rob Blake came to us and I think Cammy wanted to play a little more with a little more responsibility, and I think the opportunity came for him to be moved for Jussi – two veteran players that were kind of in the similar roles with different teams. So I think it was a win-win for both teams, but we’re getting a guy that’s a really intelligent hockey player. He can play all three forward positions, and the great thing with Jussi is I think at one time he was a bona fide, top-six forward in the league, and now just based on situations he’s asked to play a little bit of a different role, and he’s really embraced that role. I think he’s really good in the locker room, he’s really good with our young players, really good on the bench. Not just a smart player, but a really good teammate that’s had a good impact on our team. [Reporter: He’s pretty much been a gypsy throughout his NHL career. Do you think you could offer him a permanent home in L.A.?] Well, he’s been good for us. He’s really solidified our fourth line with Mitchell coming in. Jussi gives you some veteran experience there. I think our veteran players have allowed our young players to really be insulated and play well, so if you look at every line now, we’ve got veteran guys with all the young players. Iafallo and Kempe, and right down to Brodzinski playing with Jussi and Mitchell. I think it’s been really good for us. He’s like a coach on the bench. He’s a really smart player. He’s always talking about the game. He’s always talking to his linemates. He’s been good for us.
On Darcy Kuemper receiving praise from his teammates:
I thought he was solid. Darcy’s been good all year. I think the shot clock, it’s just the way Ottawa plays. They throw a lot of pucks on the net from distance, even from the neutral zone, trying to get stuff at the net. I don’t think that was a game with 40 shots. You say, ‘oh, well, [he faced] 40 shots, but having said that, Darcy was solid. He gave us a chance to win. He’s done that all year. I think it’s important to manage the fatigue with our goalies. Jonny’s coming off a trip where he played a lot, and we just thought that was a good spot to get him in there, and quite honest, we have a lot of confidence in Darcy and the way he’s played this year. [Reporter: With Darcy getting points, does that make you reevaluate the calendar in your mind, maybe getting him a few more spot starts than maybe you had thought about?] Not really. We’ve looked at the schedule, we even look at past records, but Darcy doesn’t have the [inaudible] experience, so there’s not a big sample in terms of playing against certain opponents, where Jonny, there is. Once in a while you’re into a building and for whatever reason, he hasn’t played well in that building. So, we would consider that, the trip, travel, coming off breaks, back-to-backs, we’re going to look at all that stuff. But we have a number in mind for Quicker that we think’s a good number, and we have a number in mind obviously that’s going to affect how much Darcy plays, and I’ll be honest with you – we’re probably right on target at this point with what we were hoping we were going to get in terms of the amount of starts for Darcy. At the 30-game mark, it’s probably spot on with what we hoped it would be.
-Lead photo via Juan Ocampo/NHLI