Happy Monday Insiders! For those on Pacific time, we’ve got some late-afternoon hockey for you, a 4:30 PM Pacific / 7:30 PM local time faceoff between the Kings and Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit (FOX Sports West / FOX Sports App / LA Kings Audio Network). The Kings were on the ice this morning at 11:30 AM local time in Detroit for a morning skate, set up as follows –
Iafallo – Kopitar – Brown
Leipsic – Carter – Luff
Scherbak – Kempe – Toffoli
Wagner – Amadio – Thompson
Forbort – Doughty
Muzzin – Fantenberg
Phaneuf – LaDue
Kings Vitals: Jonathan Quick left the ice first for the Kings and is projected to start in goal tonight. All time, Quick is 10-13-1 in 24 appearances against the Red Wings, with a 2.75 goals against average and a .909 save percentage – His G.A.A. is his third highest against any particular team (Nashville, 2.98 and Winnipeg, 3.02). See below for injury updates….but no extras on the ice this morning for the Kings.
Red Wings Vitals: Goaltender Jimmy Howard was the first off for Detroit this morning, giving the expectation that he will go tonight after Jonathan Bernier was in net for the past two games, a 5-4 overtime win over Toronto and a 3-2 loss against the Islanders. Per the Red Wings official account, here is their projected lineup for today’s game –
— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) December 10, 2018
From Detroit’s media availability, forward Andreas Athansiou downplayed any notion that the Kings were a team that the Red Wings should be able to capitalize take advantage of with their team speed.
“Every team in this league is good, they’ve got a lot of good players on that team,” he noted. “A lot of big bodies, so it’ll be a good game.”
Injury Updates: Kings General Manager Rob Blake gave updates to a small group of traveling media this morning, passed along by Kings PR. Defenseman Alec Martinez and forward Kyle Clifford are both day-to-day with upper-body injuries. Defenseman Oscar Fantenberg took Martinez’s place alongside Jake Muzzin, while Paul LaDue slotted alongside Dion Phaneuf. The recently recalled Austin Wagner moved in for Clifford at morning skate, playing alongside Nate Thompson and Mike Amadio. Blake also noted that forward Gabe Vilardi, who was scratched from Saturday’s game with Ontario due to injury, will see a doctor this morning and an update on his condition is expected later today.
LaDue checks back into the lineup after his most recent spell out. He missed the last three games, after having played in the five prior. Before re-joining the lineup on November 25, LaDue had been scratched in 12 consecutive games dating back to October 28, with an injury mixed in as the cause for some of the missed time. The young blueliner has done his best to be ready for when the moment arises that he checks back into the Kings 18.
“It’s always hard sitting out, but you’ve just got to keep yourself warm and keep yourself ready and I think I’ve done that as best as I can,” LaDue said after morning skate. “I’ll be ready to go tonight and I think our team will be ready to go tonight.”
LaDue noted that keeping a game-ready mentality has been key and that treating practice situations as if they were game situations has been key for himself to stay sharp when he hasn’t played on an every-night basis.
“I just try to keep it game like with everything that I do. You try not to just get into the lull of practice, you act like you’re playing every night and stay ready every night so I’ve been trying to do that. I think that helps, when you actually do get in, playing every practice like it was a game.”
For Wagner, tonight’s game will mark his fourth game in five days. The 21-year-old winger skated on Thursday with the Kings against New Jersey, flew out to Tucson for a Friday-Saturday back to back with Ontario, before meeting the team in Detroit yesterday. Wagner said he took the first leg of the Reign’s flight home before departing and heading to Detroit at the connector in Salt Lake City.
“Feeling good, just trying to keep in the best shape I can here and take care of my body,” he said after today’s morning skate. “Rest is a big key for me and drinking lots of water. It’s all in your mind, you have to go out there and believe you feel good and be ready to play.”
This isn’t the first time in Wagner’s career that he’s had to play in this type of situation. Frequently in junior hockey and sometimes in the AHL, teams play back-to-backs, three-in-threes and at the junior ranks there can be four-in-fives mixed in, although they are outlawed at the AHL level.
“I think it’s just going with what I know I have to do. I played three-in-threes in junior and I do have some experience with trying to keep my body the best it can be. It’s just eating right and getting lots of rest and what not. You just try to do that.
Walker This Way: Also included in that update was that defenseman Sean Walker is expected to be recalled later today from Ontario. Walker collected one assist from four games played with the Kings earlier this season and has amassed 17 points (6-11-17) from 20 AHL games played with the Ontario Reign. Walker leads all Reign blueliners in scoring and his totals rank him tied for seventh in goals and ninth in points leaguewide amongst rearguards, while his .85 points-per-game is fourth best amongst defensemen with at least 20 games played.
Willie Desjardins on the second power-play unit getting a goal on Saturday
They were good in practice, I liked the way they were moving the puck in practice and that’s probably one of the reasons they started that power play. We felt that we have to give guys a chance to show what they can do and from their practice, that’s why they got the opportunity and it was good to see them score. It gives them a lot of confidence and our power play needed one. We’ve had lots of games that we could have won if we would’ve scored on the specialty teams or defended. Those teams take a lot of pride in what they do and it was good to be rewarded last game.
On the decision for no suspension for Pierre-Edouard Bellemare for his hit on Kyle Clifford on Saturday
I didn’t get an explanation but I know Rob Blake talked to them about it. I think it’s always hard when you see a guy go down with a hit to the head. I think Kyle’s had a couple before so it certainly is a concern when you see that. I think all the players in the league agree that the safety of each other is important, so it’s unfortunate when someone does get it. It’s a tough hit, but that’s the league to rule on. For Cliffy, we certainly support him, he was playing well for us.
On Nikita Scherbak’s debut on Saturday
It was good, I liked that line. I liked Kempe and Toffoli and I thought [Scherbak] worked hard. I didn’t know quite what to expect but I thought his work ethic was good and I’ve always liked his skill. You can see his skill in practice but you don’t know how that’s going to translate to a game. For his first game, I thought it was good.
Drew Doughty on younger players playing fast
If you move the puck fast, you can still play fast as a team. Having these younger, speed guys in the lineup is helping us and the more they grow, the better our team is going to get.
On whether he feels his comments on Thursday inspired the team at all
I don’t know, I don’t think the guys were reading my comments, the veteran and leadership guys in here, we talk to the boys before the game and we say the same things, even more harsh things than we say to the media. Definitely I think everyone responded, the leadership did a great job with that, and we need to grow and get better. We’ve only won one game of the last few, so we have a lot more stepping stones to make.
On the hit on Kyle Clifford not drawing a hearing
Way less dangerous, I think was my hit [in last year’s playoffs against Vegas] compared to that hit the other night. It’s pretty disappointing that he didn’t even have a hearing, that’s kind of messed up I think.
Austin Wagner on whether he felt more comfortable in his second stint with the Kings, as opposed to his first
You know, I think I’ve just improved my game this year. When you’re playing with guys at the NHL level, you’re going to improve a lot more and then I go back down to the [AHL] and I’m playing lots of minutes, as you saw in Tucson I was playing quite a bit and playing with a lot of confidence. The team’s doing well down there and there’s a lot of good players, so it was good. It was good to be down there for a bit and I just try to bring what I learned up here down there.
On using his speed to create a goal on Friday with Ontario and whether he can translate that type of play to the NHL
Yeah, it’s probably the biggest part of my game so I’ve got to translate that here and I can. I don’t think I have to change a thing at all, they’re happy and Willie knows what I bring to the table and he’s expecting me to do that every night. I’ve just got to do my job and not try to change it.