Saturday practice notebook: New Lines, injury updates, opportunities available, Stevens, Phaneuf - LA Kings Insider

Following the first four preseason games, the Kings took today’s skate at 10 AM with a veteran-laden group, with many of the players expected to have or compete for spots on the NHL roster. The second group at noon consisted of more younger players and guys on AHL contracts.

The line pairings in group one were as follows –

Iafallo – Kopitar – Brown
Kovalchuk – Carter – Kempe
Pearson – Amadio – Toffoli
Clifford – Thompson – Lewis
Wagner – Anderson-Dolan – Etem

Brickley – Doughty
Muzzin – Martinez
Phaneuf – Clague
Fantenberg – LaDue
MacDermid – Forbort

Campbell & Petersen

Jonathan Quick was not a part of the Group 1 skate but participated in the second group, alongside Peter Budaj.

“In training camp, you better take a look at it now before bullets start flying,” Kings Head Coach John Stevens said following the practice. “We made that switch [Kovalchuk with Carter] in the game the other night when there was really nothing going on. We know that Iafallo-Kopi-Brownie have played together before and we wanted to see Kovalchuk with Carter with Kempe up there with his speed, Anderson-Dolan was there the other night. Just want to take a look when you have a lot of line rushes at practice, we’re going to do a lot of stuff where we get a feel of how they read off of each other, so we just wanted to give it a look for today.”

Injury Updates

– Derek Forbort participated in today’s practice, skating on a pairing with Kurtis MacDermid during line rushes. Stevens offered the following on his progress and participation in today’s skate.

“It was really encouraging he could take a full practice today so we’ll see how he makes out after today. I’m hoping that he can get into a game or two before we’re done here this week.”

– Jonny Brodzinski remains out indefinitely and Stevens was not optimistic about any sort of immediate return for him. Talking about the play in Vancouver, Stevens did not see any malicious intent from Michael Del Zotto, who was given a minor penalty for boarding on the play.

“I think Jonny’s going to be a while. We’ll have to wait and see what they say, but I’m not optimistic.”

Brodzinski had made some waves throughout the first week plus of training camp, showing up as a guy that had made significant strides over the summer to follow the instructions he was given and come into camp lighter this season.

“Jonny, believe it or not, he’s not a big guy, he used to carry 216, 218 on his frame, we thought that was too much,” Stevens said. “We thought he could play the same game if he got a little bit lighter, a little bit quicker, faster, maybe maintain his pace throughout the course of the game. He deserves a lot of credit, I think he shed about 10 or 12 pounds from that weight, came in right around the 205, 206 mark.”

Stevens felt bad for Brodzinski because he had been playing well and “was really doing everything we asked him to do.”

Who Steps In?

While Brodzinski was not a lock as the third-line right winger, he was one name in contention for that slot. With today’s line shuffling, Mike Amadio was the player elevated into a higher role as he skated between wingers Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli.

“Amadio’s really played well. We certainly like what we’re seeing from him and what he’s been able to do. Anderson-Dolan has played really well, Etem has done some good things here. This will be an important week of training camp to get a good evaluation of where our guys are at, who can play with who and who should play with who and then we’ll go from there.”

Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire

Clifford, Thompson and Lewis skated together as a trio and the final line was composed of Anderson-Dolan between Austin Wagner and Emerson Etem, all three of whom, as well as forward Matt Luff, who skated with the second group, were mentioned during Stevens’ availability.

“Etem’s a useful guy, he can play against top guys because he’s responsible. He and [Thompson] did a lot of the penalty killing for us and he’s been contributing offensively, he scored a nice goal in Vancouver. We had really sustained pressure in the offensive zone, he ended up getting into a good area where he got a stick on a puck, a redirect. He, like Wagner, carries a lot of speed, has good size and certainly has some elements that you like.”

Stevens highlighted Wagner’s speed again – “He’s really tenacious and he has high-end speed,” as something he really likes in the young forward’s game but noted that he is still a young player and said we’d wait and find out whether he’s ready to make that jump to the NHL level.

Deep On Defense

The Kings have shown a lot of flexibility on the back-end during training camp with different variations on pairings and roles. Today’s group of 10 defensemen on the ice today ranged from obvious locks to a group of players vying for the last couple of spots on the roster. With all of the moving around on the back end, I asked Dion Phaneuf about the changes and from his point of view, he said his job remains the same, regardless of who he partnered with.

“To be completely honest, you play with who you’re told to play with and you play the position that you’re told. For me, I’ve played both sides [left and right] and wherever or whoever I’m paired with, I go out, do my job and do my best to help our team win hockey games.”

Adam Pantozzi/NHLI

What’s Next?

The Kings travel to Utah later today in advance of Monday’s game in Salt Lake City against Vancouver. The Ontario Reign, with a clearer roster likely to be released tomorrow morning, will begin their 2018 Training Camp tomorrow at Toyota Sports Center, scheduled for a 10 AM skate.

Quotes & Reactions

John Stevens on what he liked and didn’t like from Thursday’s game away in Vancouver
I thought we played really well in Vancouver. The disappointing thing was that we had a 3-1 lead going into the third period and we let it get away on us, we should be able to lock those games down, but I really liked the veteran guys that went with us, how they provided leadership. It didn’t feel like a preseason game, there was lots of physicality in it, we had a really good push back and had some young guys that came in and really played with confidence. We had guys like Amadio that had to play in all situations, we ended up getting into a lot of penalty trouble, that was the other thing I didn’t like. We had a few guys, Kempe being one of them, that were in the box all night and that really taxed our guys. We had a power play late in the game and couldn’t take advantage of it and I think fatigue was a factor. At the end of the day, we feel like we got to close those games out and win it, but having said that, we thought the forecheck was really effective during that game. We thought we moved pucks quickly with speed and we were actually really happy that the defense did a really good job as a group with their gaps, because the forwards were really tied in with back pressure, that was something we were really encouraged to see out of that group.

On the makeup of his bottom six and whether he sets a goal-target from that group as a whole
We have. We have a “ghost roster” for totals, where you put a description in for players before you put the players in there, this is the kind of player we want in that hole. They do that a lot on Team Canada, the Olympic teams, because they’ve got so many players to pull from. We do it with how many goals do we think we’d like to try and get to, where do we think those goals are going to come from. We do have those scenarios, same thing with our defense, we get a lot of production out of our back end. I think, in the past, we get anywhere from 40-45 goals from that group and we think that’s a realistic number, if not improving on it. The bottom six is a little bit in flux right now because of the injury to Jonny, we’re not sure what we’re going to do with guys and positions, so we might have to re-visit that. We got to 239 [goals] last year and we know we’re lagging in that department a bit. We’d like to see that number increase. Your top six is going to carry the load but you certainly need a good chunk of it from your third line and if you can get your fourth line to contribute in the six-to-ten goal range, you’re probably going to really like that group.

Dion Phaneuf on how things take shape heading into the second full week of camp
I think training camp as a whole, it’s a process. You start out with lots of numbers and, as numbers get cut down, you start to work on more system stuff. This year, from the start, all three groups were working on different systems and trying to implement things into the games. As numbers get smaller, you start working together as one and I thought, overall, while we’d like to have more results in the win category, the work ethic in practice has been there and the work ethic off the ice has been there.

On what he took from the preseason games thus far
As veteran guys, the group that played in LA [on Thursday], we weren’t happy with the way that we played. We got beat on home ice and the only positive is that they’re not real points that are given out. As you get older, you realize that but we’re also competitive guys and you want to build your team game, you want to be feeling good and when you lose 7-2, you don’t feel good. Us, as the older guys in the room, we know what’s at stake, we know we’ve got to get going and we will.

Kevin Gravel

#4 | 6′ 4″ | 200 lb | Age: 24

Born: DOB: 2/17/1996
Birthplace: KINGSFORD, MI
Position: D

Bio

Gravel made his NHL debut with Los Angeles in the 2015-16 season, skating with the Kings for four games before returning to AHL affiliate Ontario.
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Rob Scuderi

#0 | 6′ 1″ | 212 lb | Age: 37

Born: DOB: 12/30/1978
Birthplace: SYOSSET, NY
Position: D
Handedness: Left

Bio

Scuderi is currently playing for the Reign while under contract with the LA Kings. He has won two Stanley Cups, once with the Pittsburgh Penguins and with the Kings.
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Michael Mersch

#27 | 6′ 1″ | 225 lb | Age: 24

Born: DOB: 10/2/1992
Birthplace: PARK RIDGE, IL
Position: LW
Handedness: Left

Bio

Drafted by the Kings in 2011, Mersch is currently playing forward for the Reign. Last season, he drew into his first NHL game for the Kings, where he registered 2 shots and 3 hits.
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Michael Latta

#24 | 6′ 0″ | 207 lb | Age: 25

Born: 5/25/1991
Birthplace: KITCHENER, ON
Position: F
Handedness: Right

Bio

Prior to turning professional, Latta played major junior hockey in the OHL with the Ottawa 67’s and Guelph Storm. He was drafted into the NHL in 2009 and joined the King’s affiliate Reign in 2016.
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Adrian Kempe

#09 | 6′ 1″ | 187 lb | Age: 20

Born: 9/13/1996
Birthplace: KRAMFORS,SWEDEN
Position: LW
Handedness: Left

Bio

Growing up in Swedan, Kempe made his hockey debut in 2014 in the Swedish Hockey League. He has since been drafted by the Kings, where he is playing for their AHL affiliate team, the Ontario Reign.
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Brett Sutter

#07 | 6′ 0″ | 192 lb | Age: 29

Born: 6/2/1987
Birthplace: CALGARY, AB
Position: C

Bio

Drafted in 2005 by the Calgary Flames, Sutter was traded to the Reign in 2016. He is the son of LA Kings head couch Darryl Sutter, and the eighth member of the Sutter family to play in the NHL.
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