The LA Kings fell 2-0 to the Vegas Golden Knights in their penultimate preseason tune-up Friday night, but despite the loss banked on a standout team game comprised by a collection of high-quality individual performances. Jack Campbell, moving past an off-night Wednesday in Anaheim, was terrific in net, stopping 28 of 29 shots. He was beaten only by a Ryan Reaves deflection of a Jonathan Marchessault shot that might not have counted in the regular season, when video replay would have likely indicated that the blade of his stick was above the crossbar when it made contact with the puck.
Marc-Andre Fleury reprised his performances from the teams’ playoff series, making key saves on Jake Muzzin’s rebound bid and poke checks to disrupt partial Austin Wagner and Alex Iafallo breakaways. Adrian Kempe hit the crossbar during a third period rush as the Kings spent most of the final 20 minutes in the Vegas zone. Los Angeles was without Jonathan Quick, Drew Doughty, Derek Forbort, Anze Kopitar, Dion Phaneuf, Dustin Brown, Ilya Kovalchuk and Jeff Carter, all of whom are expected to play Saturday.
Because the Kings will ice what they expect to be their opening night lineup for Saturday’s preseason finale against Anaheim, Friday’s game served as a final audition for a number of bubble players, and many fared well in the challenging road setting.
The sense I have is that there is a very real and possible scenario in which Jaret Anderson-Dolan (2nd/2017), who turned 19 on September 12, is a part of the Kings' opening day roster, in which case he'd get his nine-game look.
— Jon Rosen (@lakingsinsider) September 29, 2018
John Stevens, on whether this was an ideal performance close to the season:
Yeah, I think our whole challenge moving through training camp, you want to see your team game get better, and I thought tonight was probably our best team game. We really wanted to get an evaluation on some players. Tough travel, back-to-backs, and flying in game day, we really tried to take some of what we’d call our secondary leadership group and give them some primary responsibility, and I really thought they took advantage of their opportunity. They did some good things defensively, created some good things offensively, and I thought special teams did some good things, so it’s a step in the right direction. And we got a solid effort out of Jack.
Stevens, on Daniel Brickley:
You hope that players improve as you move along. Again, there’s a kid that came in tonight, and now he’s got to play against a really good hockey team on the road, which is a tough thing to do. I thought our leadership did a really good job tonight, and I thought Bricks, for me, that was probably his best game where he was confident with the puck, he closed on people quickly, he had a good stick and really took a step in the right direction like we’d want him to.
Stevens, on whether there are still jobs up for grabs:
We really need to get a good look at our team. But certainly the evaluation that’s coming out of today, it’s an important one. You get a chance to see guys play in that situation, and like I said, you want to see them take advantage of it. So I don’t think any decisions are done yet, but there’s certainly lots to think about.
Stevens, on what the team gains from playing preseason games against divisional rivals:
You can get a lot. I think it doesn’t matter if you’re playing a team in your division or not. You’re trying to establish a team game and get better at it. You want a certain style of play where you want to play with pace, you want to check a certain way, you want to be able to transition into offense a certain way, and I thought we did a good job with all of that. Certainly, coming into Vegas, we’ve got a pretty good rivalry with them, but that made the challenge that more difficult, to be honest with you, because you’re on the road, they get last change. That’s a good hockey team, and now with Theodore just getting back in. but, overall, I thought we took a step in the right direction regardless of who we’re playing.
Stevens, on whether the plan all along was to play Jack Campbell tonight:
Billy and I talked about it at length. We wanted to get him two full games. Soupy, he had a really good practice the other day, we were confident he’d bounce back. He played well here before. He came in and played extremely well before, so the plan was to play him here in hopes that he’d bounce back – and he did – so Jonny could play tomorrow.
Jack Campbell, on the team’s step forward despite the loss:
Yeah like you said, we’re always trying to get the win. That’s our number one goal, and that’s what we expect, so it’s disappointing not getting the win, but it’s not because the guys didn’t play as hard as they could. They played as hard as they could. They played a heck of a game and could’ve had a couple there. Their goalie made a couple good saves, but I’m really happy with the way the boys played.
Campbell, on the team’s overall performance:
I mean, everybody just did their role really well. It really started with our D moving pucks quick, getting back to every puck, forwards coming back and helping out. It’s not fun getting run over by some of their big guys, but everybody was on the hunt tonight, and I just thought we played our game plan really well and definitely could’ve won this game.
Campbell, on the atmosphere in the building:
Yeah, it’s such a fun place to play. I haven’t played everywhere yet, but it’s hard to imagine a place that’s louder, more exciting. It’s a good crowd. But I thought our guys did a great job of just playing our game and sticking to it.
Oscar Fantenberg, on the team’s performance:
I thought we played a really, really good team game. We didn’t give up too many chances. I thought the whole team played really, really well. It’s a good team we played against. They had pretty much their whole lineup, so it’s a good team effort. Obviously, we don’t want to lose. We had some chance we should’ve scored on and it would’ve been a different game. But I’m proud of all the guys in the locker room. They played really, really well.
Fantenberg, on whether the game showcased his skill set well:
I like to play against Vegas. It’s fun, it’s a loud building. I had a good feeling from last year, so it’s fun to play here. I just want to play as well as possible every game I get here in the preseason and try to make the team, so it’s up to myself to play really, really well so the coaches can trust me and play me the next game too. I just try to make the best out of every opportunity I get here.
Fantenberg, on whether he’s happy with what he has showed in the preseason:
I was a little bit rusty in the beginning. It was a while since we had played. But I think as the time has gone on, I think I’ve played better and better. I think I’ve done whatever I can do out there and try to show the coaches they can trust me and play me as much as they’ve done so far.
-Lead photo via David Becker/NHLI