The road trip concludes tonight, Insiders. The Kings are in Pittsburgh to cap-off a stretch of four games in four cities in six nights, looking for their first win of the swing, currently sitting at 0-2-1. We’ve got a 4:00 PM Pacific / 7:00 PM local time faceoff between the Kings and Penguins at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh (FOX Sports West / FOX Sports App / LA Kings Audio Network). The Kings held a partial team skate this morning, counting 11 skaters and two goaltenders. Here’s how the team lined up yesterday afternoon at practice, their most recent set of line rushes.
Iafallo – Kopitar – Brown
Leipsic – Carter – Luff
Scherbak – Kempe – Toffoli
Wagner – Amadio – Thompson
All 7 defensemen seemed to rotate through, no real set pairings. See below for more notes on tonight’s potential lineup.
Kings Vitals: Jonathan Quick left the ice first for the Kings and is projected to start in goal tonight. All time, Quick is 3-4-3 in 10 appearances against Pittsburgh, with a 2.51 goals against average and a .909 save percentage. Quick’s three victories are his fewest against any team, aside from Vegas, although his save percentage and goals against average are not towards an extreme when compared to his numbers against other teams.
Penguins Vitals: The Penguins skated to a 5-3 victory over the Boston Bruins last evening on home ice and, as such, did not skate as a full group this morning. NHL.com’s Wes Crosby reported that Matt Murray is expected to start between the pipes, while defenseman Kris Letang could miss tonight’s game due to injury. Murray has had a slow start to the season, battling injuries, and has a goals against average over 4 and a save percentage below .900, but the netminder has allowed just 2 goals from 121 minutes in two starts all-time against Los Angeles. Here is tonight’s projected Pittsburgh lineup, via Wes.
Notes & Updates: Willie Desjardins noted yesterday that he expects Daniel Brickley to make his season debut at the NHL level this evening.
“Somewhere he’s going to have to play his first one, whether it’s on the road or whatever,” Desjardins said today, following his team’s morning skate. “We want to get him in, he needs to get a chance and get a look. This is a tough game on the road for sure, but it gives him a chance to get going.”
Brickley made his NHL debut last season with the Kings, collecting an assist in his lone game in April against the Minnesota Wild. Brickley has spent the 2018-19 season to date in the AHL with the Ontario Reign, amassing two goals and five points from 21 games played in his rookie campaign. Brickley noted that the AHL is a development league and he’s been working on improving his game this season with the Reign.
“It always could be better, I feel alright with myself,” Brickley said when he joined the team earlier this week. “I’m still trying to work on defensive positioning and being more shutdown, but it’s coming along.”
On Wednesday in Columbus, Desjardins said he hadn’t seen a ton of Brickley’s play to date but added “I know from just talking to the guys that he’s a solid two-way guy. I think he can play good in his d-zone, just a solid defender.”
The 23-year-old blueliner said that the biggest difference for him in his first professional season has been the strength and smarts of professional players that have been around the NHL and AHL, as opposed to some players in college, who, as he put it, “will just run around and try to kill you.” If he is in the lineup tonight, as it seems he will be, Brickley isn’t trying to do too much.
“I just want to see the team succeed and get rolling here. However I can help with that, I’m just trying to do so.”
On the challenges that the Penguins present, as opposed to other recent opponents
Crosby and Malkin pose problems. They’re such great individual players that they can make things happen at any time. The other thing is that we’ve played some hard-working teams on the road, but [the Penguins] are a hard-working group, they’ll get after you and they’re used to winning. It’s always a challenge when you’ve got a group like that.
On players managing their energy levels and allowing them the freedom to decided whether they skated this morning
I do a little bit. I think for us, we need to have energy, that was the message at the morning skate, whatever you need to do to get energy, do it. We have to be ready tonight.
Willie Desjardins on younger players like Sean Walker being thrown into the fire
I thought last game was a difficult game, I thought he played pretty good, I like his mobility back there. I think he can give us a little bit more mobility, but it is a challenge when you first come up, I thought he was pretty good though.
On whether a Brickley-Doughty pairing could be re-visited
Maybe, the good thing about Doughty is that he’s pretty versatile, he plays with everybody on the team, I think. That could be a combination that we’d look at, but for us, it’s got to be everybody involved. We have to try to find a way to be maybe a little bit more consistent, a little bit better on our breakout.
Matt Luff on finding consistency in his game as a young player
I think it’s a little bit of experience, but the message to me, when I got sent down, was that they wanted me to be the hardest working guy on the ice. Game in and game out, I want to be one of the hardest working guys on the ice for this team. I want to bring something to the table every game and I think that brings the consistency for my game, if I can say after every game, that I thought I was one of the hardest working guys. I think that’s a key for me tonight, get on the forecheck, finish my checks and get pucks to the net, keep doing the little things right.
On managing energy throughout a four games in six days stretch
You’ve done it for so long, when you’re a kid and you play in tournaments you play four games in a day. I think now, you learn how to take care of your body properly, make sure you’re fresh for these kinds of games, especially considering it’s a big one, last one of the road trip, you want to end on a positive note. Today, guys had the optional to go on the ice and for me, it’s more of a skating thing. I like getting on the ice and getting a feel for it, getting shots off, but it’s really how you feel about getting your legs going.
On a more spaced out schedule in the NHL, as opposed to more compact sets in the AHL
Usually, in Ontario, it was hard travel and we’d play two in two days and you’d travel back home. Last year, I had guys that helped teach me how to treat my body properly and make sure my legs aren’t fatigued or feeling like they aren’t ready to go before a game. At this point, I’ve got to bring a lot of energy on the ice and be a difference maker so right now, it’s pretty easy to make sure I’m ready to go.
On his line with Carter and Leipsic
They’re two easy guys to play with. We talk a lot and make sure I know where they’re going to be and how they play. It’s been an easy adjustment for me, going from line to line, everybody’s here for a reason. It’s the NHL, you’re a good player no matter what, so it’s just playing your game and figuring out where they like to be. Carts is a fast guy who holds onto the puck and has a good shot, Leips is fast, shifty and a great passer. Just using those guys to their advantages is huge for me and just sticking to my game too, it’s seemed to work out well.