INSIDERS. Several quick notes on a busy game day. The LA Kings took the Toyota Sports Center ice at 10:00 a.m. for an optional skate. There were line rushes, but because players were absent, they didn’t depict tonight’s true lineup. I am expecting changes, as shared yesterday, and Willie Desjardins did confirm that Dion Phaneuf will be the odd-man out on the defensive rotation. He remained on the ice for extra work with Jack Campbell and Jeff Carter, the latter of whom skated in line rushes but isn’t expected to play. Carter’s “close,” per Desjardins. “He should have a good skate today, and then we should have a good read for Saturday.”
–Jonathan Quick left the ice first at the morning skate and is the projected starter in goal versus Vancouver, against whom he is 18-16-2 in his career with a 1.77 goals-against average, a .935 save percentage and five shutouts. His GAA and Sv% against the Canucks are his best marks against any Western Conference team.
–About those projected changes. As shared yesterday, we were expecting some movement, especially after a game in which Anze Kopitar, Alex Iafallo and Dustin Brown were on the ice for three even strength goals against (and, in Iafallo’s case, one even strength goal for). It’s likely that we’ll see Tyler Toffoli to the right of Kopitar, which has always been an intriguing combination that hasn’t regularly been utilized because of the familiarity and chemistry Kopitar and Brown have forged over the past decade-plus. Toffoli spent a decent amount of time with Kopitar – often opposite Milan Lucic – as part of a terrific combination in 2015-16 in which the team was on the ice for a clear majority of goals, shots, shot attempts, scoring chances and high-danger scoring chances. Minus Lucic over the last two seasons, the intermittent Kopitar-Toffoli twosome has produced a 54.4% raw Corsi-for rating (as well as lower on-ice possession rates when the players when the two players were separated from each other).
Given Toffoli’s five-game point streak and his team-best individual chance rate that LAKI has repeated ad nauseum this month, this could provide a grouping with the potential to generate some good offensive zone looks tonight. “Yeah, he’s a good player. It’s just a different look for him, too,” Desjardins said of Toffoli. “Maybe it gets him excited – who knows. You just try to find ways to get everybody going, and these are big games for us. We need points.”
Line combinations aren’t set in stone and will change game-to-game, period-to-period, shift-to-shift. Brown, who also does a good job generating scoring chances, will always be a consideration to play alongside his familiar linemate, and though he didn’t skate with the group Thursday morning, did get some individual skill work with the coaching staff before the majority of the team took the ice. But he’s gone 16 games without an even strength goal, and with the team in search of offense, Desjardins is looking for different lines and combinations to get players going. “Do I expect Brown to be playing with Kopitar again? For sure I do. Like, 100% I do.”
“When you get change, it maybe sharpens your focus a little bit. But there’s lots of hockey left. Brown and Kopitar have been a good pair, and I’m sure they’ll see time together down the road.
to add to DP take, hearing Brown to open with Leipsic and Amadio tonight and away we go.
— Dennis Bernstein (@DennisTFP) February 14, 2019
–As shared earlier this week, Jonny Brodzinski is heading to Ontario on a conditioning loan. That assignment is now press release-official. Brodzinski practiced with the Reign this morning in advance of a home-and-home with Bakersfield that opens tomorrow night at Citizens Business Bank Arena.
Brodzinski in gray today at Reign practice, along with Sutter and Grundstrom.
— Zach Dooley (@ReignInsider) February 14, 2019
The team has the option to petition to extend his stay, and will very probably do so to continue to get him AHL games next week. Ontario will be at home next Wednesday, Friday and Saturday against Stockton, San Antonio and Colorado. This was going to be a big season for Brodzinski, who was asked to build consistency and his responsibility heading into training camp after an off-season in which the team was happy with his commitment to getting “stronger, quicker, more powerful and lighter weight than he was before,” per John Stevens.
But the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry, so the saying goes, and Brodzinski suffered a shoulder injury during a preseason game at Vancouver that required surgery. He’s only now available for a conditioning assignment, meaning he won’t get in enough games for the Kings to retain his rights as a restricted free agent this off-season. Like Kevin Gravel one year ago, Brodzinski is heading into an off-season in which he’ll become a Group VI UFA.
More on Brodzinski through these next 10 days from Reign Insider.
–One minor bit of dressing room, um, window dressing: Sean Walker has moved into the stall vacated by Jake Muzzin. Earlier this year, Walker had been assigned a less permanent locker stall generally reserved for players who would be expected to go up and down between the Kings and the Reign, but since the club’s return from the East Coast, he’s assumed a spot along the Wall of Defensemen in between Dion Phaneuf and Drew Doughty. That’s an interesting placement for someone who’ll play his 22nd career game tonight. “I think they have lots of similarities,” Walker said of Phaneuf and Doughty. “They both love to talk a lot, they both love to joke around, they’re both very positive and upbeat, so I think they’re both great leaders and they’re both guys that you want to follow. They set an example – they’re both working their ass off on the ice every day. I think they’re a little different, obviously, but I think at the same time they have a lot of the same qualities.”
–Vancouver lost 1-0 in Anaheim yesterday behind Ducks goalie Kevin Boyle’s 35 saves in his first career start. The loss marked the fifth time the Canucks have been shut out in their last 10 games in California. They’re 1-4-1 in their last six games and have just two more wins (25) than the Kings (23) but are only two points out of a playoff spot, because Western Conference.
— Joey Kenward (@kenwardskorner) February 14, 2019
It often seems as though Vancouver is banged up when they face Los Angeles, and today is no different. They’ll be without goalie Thatcher Demko (knee), Sven Baertschi (post-concussion symptoms) and Brandon Sutter (lower-body) and defenseman Alex Edler (concussion), all of whom are on IR. There were also several potential casualties during last night’s Anaheim tilt, with defenseman Chris Tanev leaving Wednesday’s game early due to what appeared to be a lower-body injury and forward Jake Virtanen weathering a high hit from Ryan Getzlaf. If Tanev doesn’t go, defenseman Guillaume Brisebois should make his NHL debut.
Marek Mazanec, acquired earlier this week from the New York Rangers, took some extra time on the ice this morning, per NHL.com’s Dan Greenspan, so it’s very possible that Markstrom will go for the second straight game. He’s 2-3-3 in his career against the Kings with a 2.84 GAA and a .909 Sv%.
–More to come on tonight’s Legends Night honoree Sean O’Donnell. Tonight’s officials are referees Dan O’Halloran and Chris Rooney and linesmen Kory Nagy and Ryan Gibbons. Courtney Daniels and Maddie Poppe will perform tonight’s anthems. More to come, Insiders. Let’s talk soon.
Leave Toronto weather behind in Vancouver, and find Vancouver weather in Los Angeles. pic.twitter.com/aBS1wbRlPZ
— Iain MacIntyre (@imacSportsnet) February 14, 2019
–Lead photo via Adam Pantozzi/NHLI