December 29 practice quotes: John Stevens

On flexibility in structuring practice that incorporates immediate aspects that may need adjustments:
That’s a good question. I think for me, there’s always parts of your game you want to reinforce. I think you always want to reinforce your puck support, structure, breakouts, just your support game, and I always think you want to support your defensive game, and then there’s other parts of your game that need more attention than others. Sometimes it’s through video, and sometimes it’s through practice. I think sometimes your team needs some work and sometimes it needs some rest. Sometimes they need resistance. I think there are some staples of our game that we’re always trying to reinforce and make sure that we get quality reps in, and then I do think the way your team’s playing, the breaks you’re coming off are going to dictate some areas of focus at different times during the year.

On areas of emphasis in today’s practice:
We just felt last night we had a good start to the hockey game. We really got away from our identity as a team. Whether we were defending or we were in an offensive position, we just ended up on the wrong side of pucks and people too often there and we didn’t manage the puck very well, so we tried to put a little more emphasis on that. You come out of the break sometimes, you lose a little bit of that detail in your game, so we just wanted to bring some focus back in terms of our support without the puck, but certainly our compete level in confrontational areas being on the right side of things.

On crediting opponents for effectiveness that impacts the Kings’ performance:
Teams are different, and they’re built differently, and some teams are really physical on the forecheck, and some teams are really sweeping pressure. Both might be really competitive, so I think that does change – sometimes you can move your body more to protect pucks and make plays, and other times you want to get your feet going and bring people to you to make plays behind them. At the end of the day, coming out of a game like last night, I think there’s a lot of things we can do better. Vegas, they’re a very good team in a lot of areas, and they’re very sound. Their team game is really good, so they put a lot of pressure on you and force you to execute with pressure, but I just felt there were lots of times where, one, we didn’t manage the puck nearly well enough, especially in the second period where we had decisions to make. We had opportunities to make plays, and I just thought we made poor decisions with the puck. And then I thought we got to pucks in our zone and in the offensive zone where we did not maintain the position and get either sealed or separation, depending on what side of the puck we were talking about, so I think that had less to do with the opponent and more to do with ourselves.

On Alex Iafallo’s rookie season ebbs and flows:
I wouldn’t isolate it to Alex. I think his game at times this year has been really good, and then at times – I think, every position, there’s certain parts of the game where you’re going to be good at. I’ve always felt this way. If you’re talking about a goalie, sometimes it’s rebound control. If you’re talking about a defenseman, it’s going back for a puck in those tough areas. If you’re a centerman, it’s taking pucks in the middle of the ice, and for me, if it’s a winger, there’s 12 feet of ice along the wall that’s going to define your career. If you can be comfortable along the wall in those areas, pucks are coming to you, and you’re ready to either take on contact, make a play, move your feet, chip a puck, I just think there are areas around the wall there that when he’s really on, it just seems like he’s really sharp and makes those plays, and then when he’s not as sharp, I think those are pucks that either go by him or don’t get out of the zone. When they do, he ends up in areas where he gets in footraces and gets after pucks, but he’s no different. I mean, I think there are a lot of guys where their game wasn’t as sharp as it should be. We’ve liked an awful lot of things that Alex does. The one thing that’s allowed him to get righted in a hurry is that he’s really honest about his game. He doesn’t get temperamental when you talk to him about his game. You can just be very up-front with him and tell him what he’s doing well and what he needs to do better. He’s honest with his game. I think when you’re honest with your game, you can get better in a hurry and you can fix things in a hurry.

-A Christian Folin update was withheld and will be shared in today’s practice report
-Lead photo via Aaron Poole/NHLI

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