— Todd McLellan, on a power play that leads the league with a 44.0 rate since New Year’s Eve:
“We’re moving the puck a little bit quicker, really. There’s no magic to the power play. If there’s anything that’s changed, we’ve been able to advance it a little bit more. We’re further into a season, we’ve been able to work a few other wrinkles in now that we have part of our foundation down. But I firmly believe it’s just puck movement’s happening a little bit quicker. Adjusted some practice habits about a month ago. We put a lot more pressure on our power play and forced them to make decisions at a much quicker pace, and I think that’s paying off in the games, and sometimes the puck goes in the net.”
— McLellan, on the impact of Drew Doughty’s return:
“You can take (John) Carlson out of this lineup and just go on down the line. When you lose a Norris Trophy winner from your lineup, it’s a big hole. That’s the on-ice part. But there’s also the off-ice part. Every team has a different type of characters in the locker room. There are some that are really serious, some that are loose, and to have a good team, they’ve all got to interact and mix together, and when Drew’s not in the lineup, we lose a little bit of that character, as well. 30-minute player in all situations, transitions the puck really well, so we’re fortunate to have him back tonight. Hopefully he’s not too, too rusty. It’s been awhile since he played. We’ll have to watch his minutes, but we’ve got to get him up and running again.”
— And, finally, how he characterizes his discussions with Rob Blake in advance of the trade deadline. The team’s trajectory is understood, and the approach towards this year’s deadline was articulated in April when Blake and McLellan discussed the position.
“This team has gone through it last year and didn’t respond really well to it, so it’s our job to make sure that as we go forward with the uncertainty of the deadline that we try and keep the team focused where it needs to be and get the best out of every player that’s here,” McLellan said. “That’s their job as individuals, as well. As far as the every-day events discussion of the team, we talk all the time and he shares his thoughts and ideas, he asks for our input. Not just Todd, but the rest of the staff. And when we do get asked questions, we’re quite blunt and quite honest with him what we think about individual players or the construction of the team. That’s all he asks of us, so we’re in a good spot.”— Carl Grundstrom returns to play his first game since November 25 and will reunite with Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli, two of the free forwards with whom he’s spent the plurality of his five-on-five ice time this season. “Obviously they’re really good players, so I’m just trying to help out and create and give the puck,” he said.
He joins the Kings not only with seven points in the last seven AHL games but with a stronger structural understanding backed by a better purpose. Where has he improved? “Play the system, for sure,” he said.
“That was probably my struggle last time. I didn’t play the system well enough. That’s my goal to improve that, and I think I improved it in Ontario and learned a lesson there. I think that’s the key for me, to just do the right thing all the time and all the rest will come.”
McLellan spoke on his improvements as well, saying he’d “like to get a confident Carl into our lineup.”
“But he’s a player that we really believe in. We think he’s part of the future and the solution here. We’ve just got to get him going to where he can play at a consistent level and feel good about himself and the team feel good about him, and we think that can happen here in the near future.”
Grundstrom enters with a hot hand, having scored a late game-tying goal in San Diego before Jaret Anderson-Dolan ended the derby with an overtime dagger.
“The last couple games we’ve found a way to win,” he said of a Reign group that’s found its footing amidst a crowded playoff field. “That’s huge for us. It builds confidence too that we can win tight games, and even if they’re up a couple, we still never gave up. Just keep going until we got ‘em back.”