Good afternoon from Montreal, Insiders. The Kings skated at Bell Centre at 11:00 a.m. Thursday morning and aligned as such:
-No lineup changes are projected, other than Jonathan Quick replacing Darcy Kuemper in net. Should Quick get the nod, it would be his 500th career NHL game played. “I think he’s always been known as a great competitor,” John Stevens said. “He’s extremely athletic in the net. I just think he’s kind of a refreshing guy to watch where you see a guy that competes that hard and is such a good teammate. It’s funny that 500 games have been played already, but time goes by quickly.”
Stevens continued to articulate the ways in which Quick is a standout teammate and leader. “I think goalies are always a little bit different,” he said. “He’s got a confident swagger about him. He’s got a real quiet confidence about him, and I’ve said this before: he’s one of the best goalie teammates I’ve ever seen. To see a guy that carries himself the way he does and then never lifts his arms up or never uses his body language to point fault on anybody else but himself, I mean, he’s been that guy from day one. I think those are great qualities to have.”
-So, you may have noticed that “Amadio” has replaced “Auger” in rushes. That’s because the Kings made a roster move today, recalling 21-year-old Mike Amadio from AHL-Ontario and assigning Justin Auger to the club’s top affiliate, which opens up a quick back-to-back set in Cleveland Friday night. The Reign have only four goals through their first five games, all regulation losses, and Amadio has two assists over that span. It’s not always easy to step into the American Hockey League as a 20-year-old, but the defensively responsible 6-foot-1, 204-pound center acquitted himself quite well a year ago, totaling 16 goals and 41 points in 68 games.
Amadio’s call-up is in line with the merit-based roster rotations expected for many of the younger players who do not have to clear waivers. He provides another option down the middle of the ice and is capable of slotting at both center and wing, and this promotion allows him to get a taste of NHL action, very similar to Auger, who made his debut in last week’s 5-1 win over Montreal. Amadio, who scored 50 goals in his 19-year-old season with the OHL’s North Bay Battalion, has always been known as a heady young player, and the Troops’ former captain was again described as a “smart player” during correspondence with hockey operations on Thursday morning. He’s not likely to play against the Canadiens; we’ll catch up with the rookie during a practice day in Boston on Friday. (Looking ahead to the Bruins, it appears Tuukka Rask should return to action against the Kings on Saturday.)
-The Habs held an optional morning skate but are expected to align (via Stu Cowan of the Montreal Gazette) with Byron-Drouin-Lehkonen, Shaw-Danault-Pacioretty, Hudon-Plekanec-Gallagher and Scherbak-McCarron-Galchenyuk up front, with defensive pairings of Mete-Weber, Alzner-Benn and Davidson-Petry. 5-foot-9 Victor Mete, all of 19 years of age, has impressed through his first nine games and is expected to remain up with the club instead of returning to OHL-London, thus activating the first year of his entry-level contract. Had Mete returned to the Knights, Montreal would have saved that year of his ELC. Carey Price is expected to start in goal. He’s 6-1-0 with a 2.46 goals-against average and .920 save percentage in his career versus Los Angeles.
-If you subscribe to The Athletic, this is a very good read by Tyler Dellow that spends a lot of time looking at the Kings’ strong start from an analytics perspective. If you don’t subscribe, LAKI suggests that you should.
-Meanwhile, Adrian Kempe is skating between Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli in Jeff Carter’s spot. While there’s a drop-off in experience, tenured leadership and faceoff acumen, speed is still replacing speed.
“I think it’s kind of similar,” Toffoli said. “[Kempe is] a really good skater and uses his feet and he can make those good little plays that we’ve just got to read off of. I thought we did a good job last game with creating opportunity and not getting stuck in our own zone, so we’ve just got to stay with it and make those little plays and be good on the wall and use our feet.”
The line was noticeable during Tuesday’s 3-2 shootout win in Ottawa, as it should be. Toffoli is a former 31-goal scorer, and Pearson potted 24 goals as part of a 44-point effort on a team that didn’t exactly universally inflate its forwards production a season ago. All three forwards were on the ice when Kempe picked off Mike Condon’s pass before tying the game with 1:46 remaining, and earlier that night, the only thing that prevented a Kempe goal off slick passes from Pearson and Toffoli was a deft Derick Brassard back-check that disrupted an A-type chance.
“Yeah, I think we did well,” Toffoli said. “Especially against a team that doesn’t give up a whole lot, I thought we got our chances. But we’ve got to bear down on all of them and be able to capitalize and not just get the chances. We’ve got to be able to finish and put teams away so we don’t get put in the position of going to overtime and going to shootouts.”
While the team has been winning, the trio has combined for just three goals, one of which was Pearson’s empty-netter versus Buffalo. Wins are wins are wins, though, and Kempe has stepped up to provide offense, so there’s no grumbling or questionable body language. The group will have a difficult test tonight against a Habs team that won its last outing, a 5-1 home win over Florida two nights ago.
“They’ve definitely got a lot of skill, and their back end’s pretty good and mobile,” Pearson said. “…We were able to come out on top last time. Maybe not the best game, but we expect maybe a little bit different team back in their own building.”
It’s only Montreal’s fourth home game of the season, and those who have attended games at Bell Centre understand that the Habs do as good of a job as any NHL team at building momentum off the energy provided by the crowd. Los Angeles is 10-50-11 all-time on the road in the series, and though they’ve won two of their last four games in Montreal, they’ve never won three out of any five consecutive road games in the head-to-head match-up since entering the league in 1967.
“It’s a Canadian city, they definitely love their hockey here,” Pearson said. “Maybe here they’re a bit louder than other places, but we’ve got to keep their momentum out of the game and try to keep the crowd out of it, too.”
— Alex Faust (@alex_faust) October 26, 2017
-Lead photo via Francois Lacasse