A very good early afternoon to you from El Segundo, Insiders. Tonight’s projected lineup:
-Those who traveled to China and also played against Vegas (looking at you, Nic Dowd, Kurtis MacDermid and Paul LaDue) have tonight off. Other scratches are expected to be Chris Lee, Brooks Laich, Alex Iafallo and Justin Auger. It’s not clear who will back up Jonathan Quick, as both Jack Campbell and Darcy Kuemper remained on the ice for extra work with the projected scratches.
-Of all players NHL teams placed on waivers since the waiver period opened late last week, Jordan Nolan remains the only one to be claimed. Michael Mersch and Andrew Crescenzi passed through and have been assigned to the Reign. The Kings’ roster stands at 33 players, but that includes injured skaters Marian Gaborik, Gabe Vilardi and Austin Wagner.
-Speaking of Gaborik, hey, he hasn’t been spotted on the ice over the last two days. Ain’t no thang. John Stevens says that after having been pushed during his rehabilitation, Gaborik has been given a pair of recovery days. He’s expected to get back on the ice tomorrow.
-Meanwhile, tonight’s game is another opportunity for Jonny Brodzinski to skate alongside Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar. This is likely temporary – all line combinations are essentially “temporary” – as he’s essentially holding a spot until Gaborik returns to health, or until Michael Cammalleri shuffles back up alongside his familiar mates. But this is a terrific opportunity for Brodzinski, who is a shooter that has the ability to complement Kopitar and Brown’s attributes.
“He has a really good release, finds the good areas to score and he competes really hard,” Brown said. “I mean, Kopi’s obviously going to be the playmaker on our line if we go forward with this line. My job’s just to get in and make it hard on other D, create turnovers, get Kopi the puck. Jonny’s really good in the corners, really good in the slot and he has a world class shot.”
That work in the corners is something that Brodzinski has had to develop ever since leaving St. Cloud, which plays out of an Olympic-sized ice sheet, thus reducing the number of battles along the boards.
“Definitely coming here, that was something that I wasn’t great at but I still had, but it’s something that over the last two or three years that I’ve been working on probably every day in practice and along the summers,” Brodzinski said.
To extend this opportunity, and to continue to gain the trust of his coaches and the more entrenched premier players he’s playing alongside, he’ll have to show the ability to win those types of battles against advanced competition – something he fared well in last Saturday in Beijing.
“On the top line, you’ve got to be playing against the Sedins, Kanes and stuff like that,” Brodzinski said. “It’s something that you’ve got to do, and mainly the defensive work is something that I’ve kind of been focusing on.”
-Unlike Brodzinski, someone who hasn’t had a pair of AHL seasons to acclimate to the smaller ice is Oscar Fantenberg. He’s played in three preseason games, all against Vancouver. That included one home game in which he played on the NHL ice surface, and two games in China in which he played on a larger ice surface that was wider than a typical NHL sheet, but not quite as wide as an Olympic sheet.
“I think there’s some stuff I have to work on. It’s different angles down in the defensive zone,” he said “Here, we have to be on the right side every time, because if you’re on the wrong side, it’s so quick to the net. Back home [on the Olympic ice surface], you can cut them back if you get on the wrong side out of the corner. You can cut them in before you go. But here, you have to be on the right side every time and play a little harder. Every guy is a little bit stronger and more physical, so I have to be stronger.”
He’s fared well while logging significant minutes in a number of situations during the preseason, but for Fantenberg, and other young defenders on the roster bubble, including Kurtis MacDermid and perhaps Paul LaDue, the final preseason games against Arizona and Anaheim will provide a good test as rosters are pared down and teams are more inclined to play roster regulars. There’s good competition for roster spots both up front and on the back end.
–John Stevens praised Dustin Brown’s “north-south” game yesterday and indicated it was in good order near the start of the season. Brown affirmed that he’s feeling good with two exhibitions to play but still has some odds and ends to address. “I think these last two games are really important, not only for me but for our team,” he said. “Given the China trip, it’s in a way set us back a little bit, how you feel, your timing on the ice. The last few days in practice have been a little different, just trying to get back on track timing-wise.”
-There’s a heap of televised coverage, all of which will air on Prime Ticket. First, there’s the Kings Live Season Preview at 6:30 p.m. That’s followed by the Kings Live pre-game show at 7:00, and then Alex Faust’s first call alongside Jim Fox, which will air at 7:30 p.m. It’s time!
“It’s weird, Faust said. “When we came into the preseason, it was a little bit of ‘hurry up and wait’ because our first televised game is so late. So the rookie games come, and then you have the first preseason game, and then the China games, where I’m watching on TV like everybody else. So I’ve kind of been waiting with baited breath to get our shot, and I think it helps that I’ve actually watched a lot of hockey already before coming into this game.”
He’s obviously excited – tonight’s game is a long time in the making and is the result of a highly appreciated body of broadcasting work. While it’s still preseason, and his “official” debut doesn’t come until next Saturday’s game in San Jose, there’s still such a thorough amount of off-season work all broadcasters undertake that allow them to hit the ground running once the producer starts counting down into their ear.
“It feels very much like a regular season game,” he said. “All the research put in over the off-season, especially with the Kings, and now it’s time to give it a real run. I think from the game day aspect, I was glad I was able to get down to Staples Center for the game on the 16th, just to get familiar with the building, not get lost, which is probably important. But when it comes to the game day routine, this will be the first run. Mechanically speaking, yes, preseason game, but from a play-by-play perspective, it’s stepping right in.”
-Adrian Kempe will get an opportunity to play against his 29-year-old brother, Mario, who traveled to L.A. after the conclusion of his KHL season last year to support his brother; he even observed a practice at Toyota Sports Center. Via Sarah McLellan, the Coyotes are expected to line up with a forward group of Domi-Stepan-Keller, Perlini-Dvorak-Kempe, Martinook-Strome-Rieder and Crouse-Richardson-Fischer with a defensive contingent of Niklas Hjalmarsson, Alex Goligoski, Kevin Connauton, Jason Demers, Luke Schenn and Adam Clendening. Louis Domingue and Hunter Miska are the goalies expected to travel.
— Sarah McLellan (@azc_mclellan) September 28, 2017
-Via the NHL Network, Drew Doughty was named the 13th best player in the NHL. Mike Rupp thinks he’s “still the best defenseman in the National Hockey League.” Here’s a really nice breakdown of his game:
— NHL Network (@NHLNetwork) September 28, 2017
-Lead photo via Juan Ocampo/NHLI