Good afternoon to you, Insiders. The Kings took the Toyota Sports Center ice shortly before 10:00 a.m. in advance of tonight’s game against the Arizona Coyotes (7:30 p.m. / FOX Sports West / FOX Sports GO / KABC 790 / I Heart Radio) and aligned as such:
Extra forward: Andreoff
Extra defenseman: Gravel
-Peter Budaj was the first goaltender to leave the ice and is expected to start in net against the Coyotes. Jeff Zatkoff and Jonathan Quick (groin) remained on the ice to work with Kevin Gravel and Andy Andreoff and were joined by Jordan Nolan (muscle pull), who wore an off-colored practice jersey.
-Adrian Kempe, are you ready for your NHL debut? Are you excited? Nervous? “Of course I’m nervous,” he said. “First game, so obviously I’m going to be a little bit nervous, but I think that’s good. If you’re nervous then you’re going to be pumped for the game and I think you’re going to be good. I’m just going to go out there and play my game and skate a lot and play hard.” As is the case with any player making their debut, there’s no real overloading of advice from those around him, but rather the encouragement to Play Your Game. “I know how to play it and they’re just telling me to play my game and play hard and then I’m going to be fine out there,” he said.
-Based on LAKI counts, conversations with Dean Lombardi and other hints dropped by coaches and staff, the Kings’ scoring chances against are down, year-over-year. That’s a broad, bland observation, as Darryl Sutter breaks down that raw, net number on more varied criteria. “We base it more on opponent or trip or back-to-back or situations more than anything,” Sutter said. Could this be because of a more mobile defense? One Kings coach noted that the team is getting to pucks quicker in its own zone, allowing the team to better operate under a Sutter staple of getting the pucks into the hands of the forwards in the offensive zone as quickly and efficiently as possible. The team has still had some challenges at times defending against the rush, but that’s not exclusive to the L.A. Interestingly, one player singled out for his ability to defend the rush well was Derek Forbort. More to come.
-Back to HART WATCH, 2017. Jeff Carter returns to action with 29 goals, one behind league-leader Sidney Crosby. It’ll take more than what would otherwise be necessary – cc: East Coast voters – for Carter to really emerge as among the strongest Hart Trophy candidate, but this goal race is something. Lurking behind Carter are Max Pacioretty (28 goals) and Cam Atkinson and Auston Matthews (27 goals), followed by four players with 26. Interestingly, both the Kings and Penguins have 27 games remaining, so it looks like we’ve got a genuine, bona fide, electrified
six-car monorail goal race. Said Tyler Toffoli, on Carter’s goal scoring binge: “I think you can just tell that he’s really confident, he’s really comfortable with the puck and he’s confident away from the puck so when you’re playing like that and feeling like that, things just start to go your way. You get some good bounces and that’s what good goal scorers do, they score those goals that other guys just can’t seem to put in.”
-Tonight is Pride Night, which is a part of the NHL’s Hockey Is For Everyone Month. The LA Galaxy’s Robbie Rogers, who became the first openly gay man to compete in a top North American professional sports league, will perform the ceremonial puck drop, and activist and television personality Lisa Vanderpump will attend her first Kings game in support of the LGBTQ community, according to a Kings release. Dr. Drew will sing the national anthem, and Jeff Archibald, a gay marine and rec league ice hockey player, will be honored as the Hero of the Game. A portion of all tickets sold through lakings.com/pride will benefit You Can Play, while a $5 donation will allow fans the access to take a photo with the Rose Bowl Trophy on the main concourse. Several Kings will also wear rainbow tape-wrapped stick blades and handles during warm-ups. The tape has been supplied by Pride Tape, founded in part by Jeff McLean, who supplies rainbow-colored tape to roughly 20 teams and has been friends with Bill Ranford since 1974 when their fathers were in the military together. Click here for more on Pride tape, and click here to bid on the team’s rainbow tape-wrapped warm-up sticks, with proceeds benefiting You Can Play. For more reading, I spoke with Dustin Brown about his role as Los Angels’ You Can Play ambassador.
-Based on line rushes, the Coyotes are expected to line up with a forward group of Domi-Hanzal-Vrbata, Perlini-Dvorak-Doan, Rieder-Burmistrov-Jooris and Martinook-Holland-White with a defense of Ekman-Larsson-Schenn, Goligoski-Stone and Connauton-Murphy, via Sarah McLellan, who also noted that Jamie McGinn, who has eight goals and 14 points in 50 games, could be a healthy scratch tonight. Mike Smith is expected to draw the start, though Louis Domingue appeared to tweak something at today’s morning skate and may not be able to back him up. Lawson Crouse remains out with a lower-body injury. The Coyotes are 1-1-0 thus far on their three-game trip, having won 5-0 in Calgary and having lost 5-2 in Edmonton on Monday and Tuesday. More on Arizona can be found here.
-It’s Thursday, and Kings Weekly will follow tonight’s Kings Live post-game coverage. Among the topics: Getting to know Ralph Strangis! Black and White, featuring Paul LaDue! Science of Hockey! Jiggs McDonald in Florida! Hockey is for Everyone: Valencia Vikings! LAKHSHL Top Plays! Exclamation points!
-Enjoy your afternoon, Insiders. Today’s officials are referees Dan O’Rourke and Brad Meier and linesmen Shane Heyer and Trent Knorr. Dr. Drew will perform the national anthem. Sutter quotes will follow. Let’s talk soon.
Tyler Toffoli, on whether Carter’s play this year has been different than any other years:
I think he’s just scoring more, you know what I mean? Even last year or the previous couple years, ever since I’ve been here, you can tell that he’s dominating games and he just takes games over. This year it’s been huge for us and he’s been taking charge.
Toffoli, on whether the bye week disrupted any progress since returning from injury:
I mean, well we’ll see coming out of the break but I thought the games that I played before the break, I felt pretty good. I thought I was getting a lot of chances and it was definitely nice to get one before the break and start feeling good about scoring goals again and I’ve just got to keep doing that.
Toffoli, on most teams coming out of the break with a loss, and how to counter that:
I mean, it’s tough. You look at the records of teams coming out of it and they haven’t been very good so we’ve got to be ready to go tonight and play a full game. If we play a good, simple game than we should be in a good spot.
Morning skate photos, courtesy of Jon Bradley: