INSIDERS. A happy and healthy Saturday to you from Blog HQ, which is in the Eastern Time Zone for approximately 30 hours. Until tomorrow morning, Jessi McDonald is your LAKI on the ground.
Notes from the morning skate in advance of tonight’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets (7:30 p.m. / FOX Sports West / FOX Sports app / LA Kings Audio Network):
–Expect a release shortly noting the recall of Michael Amadio and Matt Luff. Luff, projected to make his NHL debut, has been on a tear in the AHL, totaling six goals and 12 points through the first eight [high scoring] Reign games. He’s 21 and showed good growth in a 20-year-old AHL season, a good sign in a first professional season.
“He had a good showing in training camp,” John Stevens said. “We took him on the road with a couple young teams and we thought he played really well, and he’s gone down there, I think he had a really solid year last year where he got better all the time. But he’s been a really responsible player that’s provided some offense down there and gives you a natural right winger, and we think he shoots the puck well. He’s really picked up his pace down there, he’s got a little more detail in his game. I think he deserves an opportunity to come up and a chance to play.”
Director of Player Development Glen Murray gave Luff the memorable phone call yesterday – a conversation that left the Oakville, Ontario native speechless. “You dream about it as a kid, and to finally have it happen was a dream come true, so I got on the phone and called my parents right away,” he said.
“…My mom went silent so I think she might have been tearing up a bit, but my dad was excited and first thing they were doing was looking for flights to come down. They just landed, so they’re excited.”
There are plenty of stories on Luff at both LAKI and ORI – may we suggest the Matt Luff archives – and conveniently enough, Zach Dooley got a reflection of his play from Mike Stothers earlier this week that was rather direct.
“He had a plus-3 night the other night in an 8-5 loss and when you look at some of our plus-minuses, that’s an outstanding evening, but I just know how good Luffer can be, and I want him to be a difference maker in every game,” Stothers told Reign Insider on Wednesday. “I want him to be the best player on the ice. On some nights he has been and on some nights he hasn’t been. I really feel for him, being in his second year with what he brings to the table, if he wants to fast-track himself to the NHL, he should be a difference maker. He should be the best guy on the ice.” | 2017-18 Matt Luff REIGN IN REVIEW
Luff came on strong late in an 18-year-old season in which he totaled 17 goals and 31 points over his final 20 games. Undrafted the year prior but pursued as an invite and free agent in 2016, Luff attended development camp that year and stood out as a player likely to sign that September. He did, and has shown off an ability to play with pace, stretch defenders and shoot off the rush with some interesting north-south play and offensive upside.
“[I want to show] my speed and sticking to the system,” he said Saturday morning. “It’s going to work and just bringing some offense and compete with all of them and working. We’ve both been struggling, but it’s time to turn the page, and I’m excited to be up here and get energized and play the way I play and I think it’ll work out.
Recalled for a reason, the Kings want to see a “competitive athlete,” as Stevens put it. He’ll be expected to play the game that has found him success at other levels
“No room for caution right now,” Stevens said. “…You can’t come out here and dip your toes in the water here.”
— Brian Hedger (@BrianHedger) November 3, 2018
Expect Sergei Bobrovsky to start. In 10 career outings against Los Angeles, all starts, the 2013 and 2017 Vezina winner is 2-5-2 with a 2.64 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage.
–It is projected that Sean Walker and Austin Wagner will be assigned to AHL-Ontario; that release should be coming at or near the top of the hour but is always subject to change. “Those are young guys I think that if they’re not playing here, they should be playing,” Stevens said. Both will return to getting work in a wide variety of situations with the Reign.
On the nuances of Wagner’s “elite” speed, and how he can apply it productively: “He can use that to get in on the forecheck, he can use that to get separation, he can use that to push teams back,” Stevens said, noting also the need for Wagner to continue to build on his detail and responsibility without the puck. It comes down to checking; Wagner should, in time, be able to use his speed and tenaciousness as a weapon in effective forechecking, but the team still wants to see consistency in his all-around detail.
–Games between Los Angeles and Columbus have often gotten a bit testy out of the teams’ heavy and competitive natures, but while the Kings are mindful of the Blue Jackets and their schemes and tendencies and players, this is one of those games where the focus appears to be directed more inward.
“Every game there’s a ton right now, so I don’t think it really matters who we play,” Derek Forbort said. “There’s going to be a ton of emotion in the game and a lot of passion to try to get the win.”
One focus tonight will be to limit the dynamic young defensive pairing of Seth Jones and Zach Werenski, who are part of a capable puck-moving blue line and have largely seen the ice together in five-on-five play since Jones’ return from a sprained knee on October 23.
“They’re both really good offensive D-men and both are up the ice all the time, so I think it’s important for us to hopefully keep them playing in their own zone and not let them take the odd man rushes that they’re looking for where they can come in and make plays,” Forbort said.
Like the Philadelphia game, the meeting will present another match-up against a pair of struggling special teams, placing Columbus’ 28th ranked power play and 25th ranked penalty kill against Los Angeles’ improving special teams units that sturdied themselves just in time for the five-on-five play to come a bit undone:
Plenty of ugly stats about the @LAKings, but just so you know:
– Since Oct 18th, Kings PP is 27.3% (7th best in NHL)
– Over the last 5 games, Kings PK is 91.7% (T-3rd best in NHL)
Kings need to fix even strength woes (-21 since Oct 11) & poor starts (-9 first period GD)
— Alex Faust (@alex_faust) November 3, 2018
“I think we’ve got to get back to being good defensively,” Forbort said of a team that hasn’t kept their opponent to under three goals since October 9, a loss to Winnipeg in which Los Angeles was out-shot 39-17. “We gave up way too many odd man rushes and breakaways last game and that’s not us, so get away from that and get back to playing the way we did against New York.”
— Brian Hedger (@BrianHedger) November 3, 2018
–A reminder! The Hockey Night in Los Angeles series begins tonight. A preview of what to expect:
The Los Angeles Kings, in conjunction with FOX Sports West, this week will launch ‘Hockey Night in Los Angeles,’ a series of special weekend games in which the club’s broadcasts and activations in and around STAPLES Center will look and feel different, including celebrity guests, debate-themed programming and outdoor fan fests featuring live music acts.
Kings fans can expect the following to begin this Saturday, November 3, when the Kings host the Columbus Blue Jackets at 7:30 p.m.:
-A celebrity “Guest of Honor” featured on the broadcast each night including Eric Stonestreet this Saturday.
-“LA Kings Live” pregame show to welcome former Kings forward Derek Armstrong alongside Patrick O’Neal and Jarret Stoll for a debate panel discussing Kings and NHL storylines.
-New video series hosted by former Kings forward Teddy Purcell.
-Kings Broadcasters participating in a “Survivor Pool” as part of each broadcast.
-Special video features focused on Youth Hockey in Southern California during most broadcasts.
This Saturday actor Eric Stonestreet will be the featured celebrity guest. Stonestreet is the co-star of ABC’s Modern Family. For the November 10 game, Kevin Ryder – the co-host of KROQ’s popular Kevin & Bean morning radio program – will be the celebrity guest.
–As part of the in-arena experience, Kings fans can expect the following during Hockey Night in Los Angeles games:
-Outdoor pregame fan fests prior to most evening games featuring a variety of live music acts.
-New in-arena Saturday Night Opening video for most of the games.
-Anthem performances by, among others, Mike Yung (Nov. 3); Daniel Emmett (Nov. 10); and multiple appearances by Pia Toscano.
—Click here for notes and details on tonight’s Hockey Fights Cancer initiatives. Enjoy your Saturday, Insiders.
— Francisco X. Rivera (@FX_Rivera) November 2, 2018
-Jessi McDonald contributed to these reports
-Lead photo via Juan Ocampo/NHLI