Insiders! A good afternoon to you. Click here for today’s lineups. If you missed the barrage of tweets earlier today, Anze Kopitar, Ilya Kovalchuk, Dustin Brown, Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick are all playing at home tonight. The Golden Knights’ top line will also play at Staples Center, though Max Pacioretty will stay home. Silky smooth 19-year-old defensive prospect Erik Brannstrom will be in tonight’s lineup, with Oscar Dansk and Maxime Lagace tending goal. John Stevens is in Vancouver with Mike Stothers and David Bell, while Dave Lowry, Don Nachbaur and Jaroslav Modry will coach the Staples Center group.
This and that:
-Gabe Vilardi remains week-to-week. The plan, after speaking with hockey operations, was for Vilardi to skate today in a track suit. There’s no timetable for his return at this point; don’t hold your breath for any opening night surprise. We’ll continue to monitor his progress. As of today, it’s still unclear as to where or when he’d start his 2018-19 season and is dependent on a number of other factors. Hang tight in this holding pattern for a little bit. Right now, the team is focused on getting him healthy, day-by-day.
-Derek Forbort skated in a red no-contact jersey with the players who won’t play in tonight’s split-squads after the official morning skate. Per Curtis Zupke yesterday:
Derek Forbort (back) might skate with the team Saturday if he keeps progressing, per JS. Daniel Brickley will play tomorrow. JS suggested they have held him out bc he missed time earlier (personal leave).
— Curtis Zupke (@curtiszupke) September 19, 2018
-Speaking of Daniel Brickley, he’ll make his preseason debut alongside Drew Doughty tonight. This will be his second official game in a Kings jersey, unless we’re counting the Vegas Rookie Faceoff finale, which we’re not.
“It’s pretty easy to play with Drew,” Brickley said. “He’s very talkative and just makes the game really simple for himself and others around him. I just go out and do my thing. We both talk to each other and it just clicks.”
This falls in line with what many players and coaches have said about playing with Doughty – that he’s essentially a rising tide that lifts all boats – even if that co-pilot’s seat will eventually be filled by Forbort when he’s healthy again. The team has been happy with Forbort’s development over the last two years, with one particular aspect of his skill set being the ability to force the opposition to dump the puck in the offensive zone at the blue line, leaving Doughty available to pick up the loose puck and mitigate the defensive zone time.
That ability to make a quick read and play quickly will be among the focuses stressed by the team in both games tonight.
“I think we’ve got to play faster,” Dave Lowry said. “Obviously, right now it’s about finding your way. The veteran players, sometimes it takes them a little bit longer to get up to speed. But I think that we’ve talked about it. We’ve talked about the value and the importance of these games, and it’s time to take step forward.”
–More on Brickley and Trevor Lewis, and their fathers, Matt and Randy, from Chris Kamrani of the Salt Lake Tribune. Recommended piece.
-If you harken back to those halcyon days of the 2015 preseason, you may remember that Milan Lucic got into every game. His stat line: Six games, zero goals, zero assists, zero points, five penalty minutes.
Rather than explain that preseason stats aren’t particularly meaningful – Matt Frattin was the unofficial 2013 Munters/LAKI Preseason MVP, if we’re digging into the archives – it was useful to get Lucic into every game so he could get comfortable with the players he’d primarily be playing with, namely, Anze Kopitar. Once the dust settled, his possession and production numbers were astounding. Like, literally some of the best rates any King has posted since the harvesting of advanced stats. He had a 60.4% Corsi-for rating alongside Tyler Toffoli and 58.3% alongside Anze Kopitar, his two most frequent linemates. He respectively posted a 3.54 and a 3.76 (!) GF/60 alongside the two.
So, don’t be surprised to see Kopitar and Ilya Kovalchuk get their fair share of time together this preseason as they look to build their chemistry rather than wait until the regular season for it to blossom.
“Obviously it’s a work in progress, and you can’t expect a first game for everything to be clicking. It certainly showed,” said Kopitar, who along with Kovalchuk assisted on a Dustin Brown power play goal in Tuesday’s home split-squad game.
“The first two periods, it’s almost like a feeling out process and just kind of getting comfortable on the ice. Really, personally, you don’t play a game for five months, so the first couple periods we’re just trying to get bearings and just kind of feeling good. The third period we started to move the puck a little bit better and made some plays, so we had some chances, but obviously we still have to be a lot better.”
Dave Lowry, who will coach the home group today, also used the term “work in progress” to describe the line’s chemistry after the first preseason game. Rome wasn’t built in a day, so they say, but Kopitar and Kovalchuk do have the tools to become the club’s Romulus and Remus.
“Even in the game in Ontario, when you watch Kovalchuk enter into the offensive zone, every time you know that there’s a threat that you can finish a play,” Lowry said. “That’s something that as coaches you always like to have in your lineup.”
-Jaret Anderson-Dolan will skate alongside Jeff Carter tonight, placing the youngest player on the Kings’ roster alongside a sage veteran. Regardless of age, they’re both known for their wheels. “Playing with a guy with a skill level like that is always fun, so for me, I’m just going to stick to my game, play fast, try to get the puck for him and get it to him and get to the net and get open, because I know he’s going to give it back to me,” Anderson-Dolan said.
He had entered into last year’s preseason slate, right after he had turned 18. Now, as a newly-minted 19-year-old, he’s looking to put the fundamentals of what he learned at development camp into game settings.
“I’ve gotten a little bit stronger over the summer and also just a little bit smarter in battles going in with different angles and a different approach. Kind of learning from guys up here, and definitely got a lot stronger, so that’s helped a lot, too,” he said.
The coaches have encouraged him to go into those board battles with a good stick. Anderson-Dolan is 5-foot-11 and weighs 191 pounds. That’s not particularly undersized, but he’s not gifted with the type of size that allows him to dominantly assert his will in battles with sheer physicality. “I try to get in their hands and separate them from the puck,” he said.
“It starts with a good angle, and again, we worked on that in the summer. Honestly, just skating – it’s getting in the right spot to be there and not being behind the play. Once you’re there, it’s not too hard. A lot of bigger guys don’t really think you’re going too be able to get the puck, so I see it as kind of an advantage to be able to be a little bit smaller that way.”
-Johan Södergran (6th/2018), who doesn’t turn 19 until November, scored twice in Linköping’s 5-1 win over HV71 and now has three goals and one assist in two SHL games. Click here for a report on his start to the season. Click here for Google Translate.
-Tonight’s game will not be televised live on the NHL Network. The first live broadcast of a preseason game will be this Monday against Vancouver in Salt Lake City.
Anze Kopitar, on what progress he hopes to see from the first preseason game to the second:
Just the progress. Just try to take the next step. You try to work on your game – whether that’s individual or in team games, we’ll just go and play hard, and obviously try to do the right things, and just kind of go from there.
Daniel Brickley, on what he hopes to establish in his preseason opener:
Obviously, we want to win. Preseason, you want to win, but bringing the team together, fine tuning, rounding out the rough edges – from my perspective, that’s what I hope is going to happen with the team and we can come together pretty quick.
Jaret Anderson-Dolan, on his 2018 preseason debut:
It was good. It was a fun experience playing at Staples – a lot of adrenaline, a lot of energy. Sometimes you’re kind of thinking too much just because you’re out there and trying to make a difference, so going into tonight, I’m just trying to simplify and play my game.
Amadio put in a tremendous amount of work over the summer. He was asked to get out of his comfort zone and did so, and his training results were excellent. Has gained a step and plays with a better pace. Smart player who finds his way to a lot of loose pucks. https://t.co/dw5Q9TZz3U
— Jon Rosen (@lakingsinsider) September 20, 2018
-Lead photo via Joshua Lavallee/Icon Sportswire