A good afternoon to you from El Segundo, Insiders. The LA Kings held a highly optional skate at Toyota Sports Center this morning, as expected. With the back-to-back late in the preseason, and evaluations still taking place, the Kings will not ice their top lineup against the Golden Knights this evening. Those who took the ice this morning were Dion Phaneuf, Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar, Ilya Kovalchuk, Dustin Brown, Derek Forbort and Jeff Carter. They’re not expected to play, which means that based off yesterday’s template, it’s possible we could see combinations of Pearson-Amadio-Toffoli, Iafallo-Kempe-Etem, Clifford-Thompson-Lewis and Wagner-Anderson-Dolan-Luff, though those aren’t confirmed. Defensemen will be all but one of Oscar Fantenberg, Paul LaDue, Jake Muzzin, Alec Martinez, Kale Clague, Kurtis MacDermid and Daniel Brickley.
–I’m expecting Jack Campbell to start in goal, with Cal Petersen backing him up. Again, tonight’s lineup is reflective of the continued evaluative period, along with the compressed schedule. “We’re just trying to get a real good look at guys and give them opportunities maybe they don’t normally get, and at the same time, we’re conscious of the back-to-back going into the weekend. We’d like to see those guys continue to improve to get another chance to be evaluated,” John Stevens said.
–The Golden Knights are expected to ice a lineup of Marchessault-Karlsson-Smith, Pacioretty-Stastny-Haula, Tuch-Nosek-Carpenter and Carrier-Bellemare-Reaves with defensive pairings of Engelland-Theodore, McNabb-Miller and Holden-Merrill. Marc-Andre Fleury is expected to start in goal.
–LA Kings Insider learned early in the week that surgery was becoming a likelihood for forward Jonny Brodzinski, who suffered a shoulder injury in last Thursday’s preseason shootout loss at Vancouver. That surgery has taken place, as confirmed by Lisa Dillman; Brodzinski remains out indefinitely.
–If Derek Forbort (back) is going to get into a preseason game – Stevens said on Tuesday that the team would be “prudent in the process of getting him fully healthy” – it will be Saturday against Anaheim. “I haven’t heard anything different, but I said we’d like to get him into a game,” Stevens said. “If we couldn’t, if they didn’t think it was right, we’d still have a week to get ready. But we’d like to get him in a game, for sure.” Stevens confirmed that Saturday’s lineup at Staples Center versus Anaheim will essentially be the projected lineup to start the season.
–Paul LaDue has improved after a slow start to training camp. “We thought the beginning just maybe wasn’t as clean as we wanted him to be both defending and with the puck, but as training camp’s gone along, he’s started to play a faster game. He’s been more tenacious and competitive in his defending, and he’s been able to initiate the attack by using his feet and making plays, so I think he’s improved as we’ve gone along,” Stevens said.
–Austin Wagner and Matt Luff are expected to play tonight after a strong showing Wednesday in Anaheim. Stevens was encouraged by how both players were able to play their games in a difficult NHL setting against a team icing its projected lineup to open the season. “Wags is a straight-line guy that really uses his speed as an asset, and Luffer, I thought, did a lot more with the puck, especially off the wall. Moved his feet and made some plays, which we were hoping to see from them. I thought they played with a lot more confidence against a pretty good lineup,” he said.
–The NHL Network has tonight’s game on its national broadcast schedule. Game time is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. Be on the lookout this afternoon for a new feature called “Teach Me.” The “Teach Me” feature will take one hockey topic, no matter how mundane, arbitrary or centrally associated with team operations, and allow a player to teach Kings fans about that subject. Several ideas for this feature will be “Teach Me: Warm-Ups,” “Teach Me: Handling the Media,” “Teach Me: Playing in Montreal” and “Teach Me: Getting Traded,” and should hopefully provide an interesting glimpse into the players’ day-to-day work environments. Anze Kopitar was our first guest. The story should be out at/around 2:00 p.m.
-Lead photo via Ethan Miller/Getty Images