Prior to Wednesday’s 2-1 win over Pittsburgh, Todd McLellan shared that Jeff Carter (lower-body) had previously been slated for a return against the Penguins, but that plan was pushed back when he didn’t respond well to skating on his own on Tuesday at Toyota Sports Performance Center.
“We anticipated him being back for today’s game, but when he tried to skate [Tuesday], it wasn’t good, and then today we just held him off again. So, day-to-day. Obviously ‘no’ to playing [versus Pittsburgh], and we’ll see where he is [Thursday].”
It was the fourth consecutive game missed by Carter, who ranks second on the Kings with 17 goals. The hope is to get him on the ice and back into game action “as soon as we can,” according to McLellan.
“We need him. We need that center ice position filled or at least have that veteran presence in the lineup that scoring ability. So, we’ll take him any time he’s ready.”
Los Angeles returns to action over the weekend with a back-to-back set that begins at 1:00 p.m. Saturday at home against New Jersey an concludes Sunday in Vegas at 7:30 p.m.
Todd McLellan, on whether this was the “better checking effort” he’d hoped to see:
Certainly, yeah. That’s a very easy question to answer. Teams are still going to get opportunities, but they’re not free ones. At least we’re near our checks or we have the ability to disrupt a free rush. We gave up two, maybe three outnumbered rushes the whole night, which is a pretty good number in this league. Ione was on the power play and we got a big save, but other than that, it wasn’t free-flowing like the Edmonton game was, so we worked on it, we talked about it, they absorbed it, applied it and it certainly helped us tonight. It’s a tough game for us. They’re a really good team. They come after you, they’ve got pace and skill. We had to check and check, and at times it was ugly. We had to punt a lot, which isn’t how we always want to play or we will always play later on in the future. Hopefully we can maintain the puck a little bit more and get going, but right now the guys are playing how they need to play to win, and they played hard tonight. That’s part of developing the future is gaining some of those characteristics at this point right now, and they did a good job.
McLellan, on whether there was relief within the dressing room after the trade deadline:
Yeah, there’s relief. We addressed the team, we laid it out on the line. This is our group, and this is the group that’s going to move the needle as we talked about, individually and collectively, and it’s time to dig in, and we have the right people in the locker room. And that’s not an insinuation on the guys that left, that they were wrong – by no means. But the people that are in the locker room right now, the older players, the veterans, we’ve addressed all of ‘em, and they are aware of what their roles could be and how hard they have to play in practice so that everybody else can keep their eyes on them. And then the followers – so we’ve got the leaders and the followers. We’ve got to do it all together, and tonight we did.
McLellan, on wanting to see how Blake Lizotte’s line fared against tough competition again:
They’re finding roles. If you can imagine down the road if we could have them as a third line checking against one of the team’s top lines and free up others, that would be great. They’re learning that trait right now. Kopi had a lot of minutes, he had a lot of defensive zone draws because he’s our most reliable guy in there. So, he would often start it and then Lizzo would pick up the rest. Unfortunately. it became a three-line game so our fourth line didn’t get much ice time, but that happens. But overall, a good team game.
McLellan, on winning the special teams battle:
I think when you do that, you often win the game unless you’re really weak five-on-five. We only had a couple power plays but we found a way to get one, and it was nice to see the kid unit, if you want to call it that, get the goal. And the penalty killers did a tremendous job, starting with the goaltender on out.
McLellan, on Cal Petersen, an “unfamiliar” goaltender:
He’s played the way he played tonight almost all year in the American League. The reason we don’t have a familiarity with him is because he hasn’t been around a lot, but we think he can do what he did tonight on a consistent basis moving forward. He’s very calm, cool, collected in the crease. There’s not a lot of garbage laying around. The guys feel confident with him in there, and I just think he’s going to get better as he gets stronger and he goes through the league once or twice and recognizes teams’ tendencies and just gets a good feel for it. It’s all part of the process we’re going through and we’re doing it at every position. He did a really good job tonight and he’ll get some tough starts down the stretch. We hope he’ll continue to give us these nights.
McLellan, on any consideration to give Petersen a longer run in goal:
Not necessarily, nope. We’ll continue to play Quickie as well. We have to think about moving forward and how we’re going to use these guys next year as well and train them for that. Jonathan will play some games and Cal will play some. You see Cal play some back-to-back here already. So, we’ll continue to make sure that both of them are part of the team. As we’re looking at individuals, we’re also trying to build that team. That team model, we want everybody to be important, and certainly Quickie is.
McLellan, on how the defensive corps responded in their first game since the trade deadline:
The D were put in a tough spot. When Derek came back from his injury we had eight of them in practices and eight of them for the games, and we had to talk to them and say, ‘listen, we’re not dressing eight, and very seldom will we dress seven, so two of you have got the short end of the stick on any given night. There are nights you’ll come out because of your play, but a lot of nights you’ll come out just for rotational purposes.’ The six that are here stuck with it. They didn’t always like what was going on, but they stuck with it and they played pretty well here. Now’s their time to shine to earn contracts for next year, earn playing time. All six of them had a pretty good night tonight.
Thursday, February 27 is an off-day for the team. The next practice is scheduled for 11:00 a.m. Friday at TSPC.