Insiders! A fine evening to you. Let’s get down to brass tacks. When the LA Kings face the Winnipeg Jets tonight at Staples Center (7:00 p.m. / FOX Sports West / FOX Sports GO / Hockey Night in LA / Hockey Night in Canada / LA Kings Audio Network), they may align as such:
— The vitals: The defensive pairs above are educated guesses, though the forward group should be accurate. Today’s skate was optional, though Kurtis MacDermid, Matt Luff and Ilya Kovalchuk remained on the ice for extra work with Jonathan Quick. Todd McLellan confirmed that Trevor Lewis would move to right wing, and Nikolai Prokhorkin and Paul LaDue would enter into the lineup for Matt Luff and Kurtis MacDermid. In three career games against Winnipeg, Jack Campbell is 0-2-1 with a 2.35 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage.
— Their vitals: Laurent Brossoit, who ranks 51st in save percentage out of the 58 goalies to appear in at least 15 games in the current calendar year, will get the start in goal. In 2019-20, he’s 3-2-0 with a 3.90 GAA and an .876 Sv%, and in two career games versus Los Angeles he’s 1-1-0 with a 3.56 GAA and a .857 GAA. Dmitry Kulikov (upper-body) exited Winnipeg’s 3-0 win over Anaheim yesterday – a game started by early-season Vezina Trophy candidate Connor Hellyebuck – so Carl Dahlstrom will enter the lineup on the back end, and former Reign defender Cam Schilling was recalled from AHL-Manitoba. Nathan Beaulieu (upper-body) was placed on injured reserve, so there remain holes on the Jets’ back end even as they bring a 10-4-0 road record, an 11-3-1 record since their last meeting and a league-worst 5×5 expected goals percentage into tonight’s game. “We like our game,” Paul Maurice told reporters earlier today. “But you know what? We’ll probably never get to be an ‘analytics darling’ this year. For us to win games, we’re going to need our goalie to be really good, and for us to compete really hard. I’ll take that all day long. Because we can’t measure compete, the things we set out to be good at this year – how hard we contest the puck, what our gap is on the puck carrier, how many pucks we’ve forced to be dumped – we’re pretty good in those departments.”
— Todd McLellan said that Kurtis MacDermid’s exit from the lineup wasn’t based on any shortcomings in his game, but rather to get a better feel for the personnel available. “Mac has been just fine,” he said. “He plays physically, he’s in good position, he’s become a good penalty killer, we trust him. We need to figure out where Paul LaDue is at right now, and the lefty-righty thing comes into play somewhat. I think Mac’s reputation of being a tough guy discredits what he has as a skill set, and it might not always look real, real pretty, but it’s efficient, and just because your reputation is part of the old style of hockey, it doesn’t mean you can’t play in today’s game, and he sure can.”
MacDermid had the full support of McLellan and those throughout the organization in the wake of his crushing hit on San Jose forward Antti Suomela Saturday afternoon. The hit, originally deemed to be a major penalty, was reduced to an interference minor after a review initiated on behalf of an offseason rule change in which all major and match penalties can be reduced to a minor but can’t be completely rescinded. MacDermid was a beat late to the hit, but the head was not the principal point of contact, and the defender only left his feet as the impact of the collision springboarded him upward. In other words, it was a largely legal, massive hit (again, a touch late), one in which McLellan disagreed with the mandatory sentence “which in my opinion, makes no sense because an innocent person’s going to jail.” MacDermid has made several step-up hits this season, and though he’s ran afoul of AHL and NHL disciplinarians in the past, is seen as an honest player, not a dirty one, by his coaches and teammates.
— The San Jose game was a strange one as shared both on the broadcast and during media availability earlier today. “Like, even after watching everything all over again, we had given up six shots on goal, we were down 3-0 and had momentum. I wasn’t sure if we had chances,” McLellan said. “We hit a few posts just like they did, so those are almost a wash. Never felt in control of the game. Usually when that happens you’re a disaster. It was just one of the most bizarre games I think that I’ve been involved in – like, it was just strange.”
It was a particularly difficult game to evaluate and derive lessons from, one in which the game tape will be tossed into the trash bin and lit on fire, as they say. “What did you do bad, what did you do well, who played good, who didn’t? It was all over the map.”
Paul LaDue, on whether his skill set fits the new schematics and quicker tempo:
Yeah, I like to get up in the play and it definitely fits with that more. I also feel like we’re a little more sound defensively. We play together more as a unit, and I think that helps everybody, myself included.
LaDue, on when he felt comfortable after returning from his injury:
I think it took a few games just to get back into it, just at the speed of things. But a couple weeks into the season down there I was feeling pretty good, and I feel like I’m right back to normal. It’s all good, a and credit to everyone who helped me out along the way.
LaDue, on the Ontario Reign:
We had a good start, a really good start, and we kind of slowed down a little bit. But it’s a long season, and for a lot of the guys it’s the first time going through it so there’ll be some ups-and-downs. But I the end, I feel like we’ve got a really strong team down there.
LaDue, on whether he’s built a relationship with Todd McLellan, and how long it takes to do so:
Yeah, I think so. It’s on us to buy into the system, so I think that’s completely on us. He’s as far as I see doing a great job, so I’ve just got to keep working and try to help the team out.
— Tonight’s officials are referees Kyle Rehman and Tom Chmielewski and linesmen Steve Barton and David Brisebois. Kimberly Caldwell-Harvey will perform the national anthems. For notes and more information on Gabriel “Fluffy” Iglesias’ HNILA appearance, click here. Let’s talk soon, Insiders.
T-Minus 2 hours!
Holiday Ice L.A. Live opens at 5 p.m. Who's coming to skate?
— LA Kings (@LAKings) November 30, 2019