INSIDERS. A happy Black Friday to you. The Kings were put through a special teams-geared practice that began shortly after 11:00 a.m. and, after a hard skate, finished up about an hour and 15 minutes later. Not all players were on the ice for the entire time, but that was nearly as long of a practice as players will experience during the season. It’s not a coincidence that it took place the day after Thanksgiving on a day that all 30 other teams were in action. “By design, certainly the skate at the end … was to get the turkey out a little bit, just to get moving,” Willie Desjardins said. “I think it felt good to get moving. Tomorrow, we have to make sure we’re ready, but I think it was a good day to have a good skate.”
–There weren’t any traditional line rushes, though the alignment of one five-on-five drill placed Gabe Vilardi in Adrian Kempe’s spot. Vilardi’s not a candidate to play against Vancouver; he was likely keeping the spot warm for Kempe, who will continue to be evaluated, or Michael Amadio, who could be recalled and slotted into a center spot if Kempe is unable to play Saturday. Sheldon Rempal, who leads the Reign with seven goals and 16 points, is also a candidate for a recall. As noted earlier, we weren’t expecting a Saturday roster move, but with only 11 healthy forwards, not including Kempe, strange things may be afoot at the Circle K. Ontario plays host to Bakersfield tonight at Citizens Business Bank Arena. | KEMPE NOT RULED OUT FOR SATURDAY; QUICK PRACTICES WITH GROUP, APPROACHES RETURN
–Again: There was a good amount of special teams work, much like several practices earlier this week. Willie Desjardins likes the personnel, and now it’s time for them to continue to go over the boards and execute. “I think we have the right people. I think it’ll just take a little bit of repetition and I think we’ll start scoring.”
“It’s different when a power play’s been together for a long time. It’s easier to make changes on it. The one power play, Kopitar got a penalty, so that broke up two units, because I took Kovalchuk off the other unit. I think little things maybe throw us off right now. I don’t think they’ll keep throwing us off.”
Of course, the power play won’t be the only aspect of special teams play requiring maintenance. By allowing three more goals on Wednesday, units that led the league in penalty killing last season have plummeted to 25th place this season at 75.0%. Colorado became the third team in the last five games to score multiple power play goals against Los Angeles.
Desjardins didn’t mind the five-on-five play through much of the first period, but also understands that special teams, particularly the penalty kill, have taken the Kings out of the game. “I think it’s just everybody getting on the same page,” he said. He also praised Carl Hagelin’s handle on joining the shorthanded units and noted that it hasn’t taken him much time to adjust.
Now it’s time to get all players and all lines working in concert and building the consistency that generates 60-minute efforts.
“It is time that we start it. We’ve got to make our move,” Desjardins said. “Colorado, when I went through the video, it wasn’t as bad as I thought. They didn’t have a lot of five-on-five chances in the first period. Up till two minutes left in the period, they only had two. For a team like that, those numbers are pretty good With saying that, I think we can be better, and that’s what we want to do. We don’t want to just be close, we want to find ways to win these games, so we’ve got to step our game a bit. But we’re not far away.”
–The Kings are the lone NHL team without a dance partner today. Tomorrow’s opponent, Vancouver, will look to snap an 0-6-1 skid in San Jose tonight and will turn to Anders Nilsson to do so, which increases the likelihood that Los Angeles will face Jacob Markstrom. As often seems to be the case this time of the season, the Canucks have a laundry list of casualties, including Brock Boeser (groin), Brandon Sutter (shoulder), Jay Beagle (arm), Sven Baertschi (concussion) and Alexander Edler (knee), though Edler is expected to return to the lineup tomorrow night and play for the first time since October 24.
–Stick taps to LA Kings Production, who put together this video depicting Dion Phaneuf’s 1,000th game played last Saturday in Nashville. Wearing a microphone, Phaneuf gives a good glimpse into the sights and sounds at ice level: