The LA Kings were unable to generate a consistent attack during a sloppy performance and fell 3-0 to the Anaheim Ducks Saturday at Staples Center, finishing their preseason with a 1-6-1 record. The 1-6-1 record was the club’s worst since 1974-75, when they went 0-5-1 prior to a season in which they ultimately finished 42-17-21 behind Rogie Vachon’s excellence.
To make matters worse, Dustin Brown was injured in the second period and did not return to the game. A Kings spokesman confirmed that it was an upper-body injury.
— Eric (@Kingsgifs) September 30, 2018
There’s no immediate word on the severity of Brown’s injury. “He didn’t finish, so we’ll get an evaluation here hopefully by tomorrow,” John Stevens said after the game. There was no immediate word on the severity from hockey operations; this is standard practice for in-game injuries, where the extent is often shared the following day.
The Kings are making final roster decisions tonight and tomorrow, and Brown’s potential injury may have an impact on the roster the team was leaning towards. Entering Saturday’s game, the most pronounced battle up front was between Austin Wagner and Jaret Anderson-Dolan, with a likely back seven that included Drew Doughty, Derek Forbort, Jake Muzzin, Alec Martinez, Dion Phaneuf, Oscar Fantenberg and Paul LaDue. More to come on this front Sunday and Monday. Teams must submit their opening day roster by 2:00 p.m. PT Tuesday.
John Stevens, on puck management issues in the final preseason game:
I said it last night – I thought we played a really strong team game last night, I thought we played fast. We played fast, we looked fast, and tonight we looked slow. I don’t know if the schedule caught up with some of the guys. I’ll take responsibility for that. I think some guys were asked to play a lot, just because it was a heavy load, back-to-back. Some of those young guys – Amadio and Pearson – played a lot. I don’t know if it’s a lack of practice time that caught up with them this week or the schedule, but whatever the reason is, we need to reset. I thought we held onto pucks right from the get-go, turned a lot of pucks over that allowed them to play in our own zone, and even when we generated stuff, we were in and out. Certainly not the way we wanted to end our preseason, but the good thing is we’ve got a week until we start here, and we’ve got an important week of practice here.
Stevens, on whether next week will provide a good opportunity to get in practice time:
I think in this case it is. We’ve had guys go in different directions. I think the guys actually had done a good job. We took some young teams on the road that played really well, so that’s a real positive from that, but I think it’s time now to get down and get some real quality work in here. The power play hasn’t been very good in preseason. That needs to be looked at here. I think the penalty kill has improved. It wasn’t very good early, but it’s improved. But the fact that we have a week to get ready, and the team we’re playing plays before we do, and sometimes that’s an advantage to them with a day in between. The schedule is the schedule when you get to the regular season, so whether you’re playing Wednesday or Friday, you’ve got to make the best of it, and there are going to be times during the year where you get playing right away and times during the year where you’re going to have some time off. This week we’ve looked at it all along. We have the week to prepare, so it’s an important week to get the group together and make sure our team game is in order. We’re playing a very good San Jose team.
Stevens, on Derek Forbort’s first game of the preseason:
It’s at rough game for him I think coming in, but I think it’s good that he got in a game. You can practice as hard as you want and get back in a game, but the fact that it’s his first game after a long time off, and I didn’t think the team was very good around him, so that probably made it a little worse for him. But, I think it’s good that he got in a game.
Stevens, on which game situations and linemates Ilya Kovalchuk has felt most comfortable with:
We’re not sure. We tried with Kopi, we tried him with Carts, and even in the game I wasn’t here – I was away [at the split-squad game in Vancouver] – they made the switch and put Anderson-Dolan up there. It’s actually looked pretty good in practice, and again, Adrian played a lot this week, so it’s not a true evaluation. But, he’s a good player. I think he can play left or right side. He’s an invested player where he works without the puck and when he has it, usually something good’s going to happen. We’ll take a good look this week here and talk to him, too. We’ll talk to Kovy and just get his thoughts on how he feels, how he feels about the guy he’s played with. He’s an intelligent guy that’s had a long time playing. Sometimes you’ve just got to talk to those guys and get their feedback because it’s important information. To answer that question, I’m not sure. But the fact that he can play left or right gives you a lot of options. [Reporter: So you’re not married to the top nine then, with Kovalchuk and Kempe and Carter on the set line? You could change it come opening night.] I’m not married to anything right now. I think you’re going to have to change your lines when there’s an injury like there was tonight where a guy leaves the game or you’re not creating, giving up too much, whatever the case is. It might be your match ups, you want to change things. But, we certainly like our top nine. We think with Adrian, we like him in the middle, we can move him to the wing, he can play both. Michael we like in the middle. It’ll be a good discussion to have here tonight and tomorrow, and we’ll see where it goes from there.
Stevens, on whether Alex Iafallo will remain on Anze Kopitar’s line:
I don’t know at this point. It’s interesting. Alex, we moved him up and down, and there were times last year – he can play with Kempe and Lewis. That line looks really dynamic at times. He’s certainly been a good fit with Kopi and Brownie. Alex is a good player that does a lot of little things well. He’s very responsible, he’s got speed, he’s got good detail. So, I’m not sure. We liked him with Kopi and Brownie. We’ll just see what the case is with Brownie. There’s a lot of options we’re going to have to look at and figure it out, but to answer it right now, I’m not sure.
Alec Martinez, on what didn’t work offensively:
I think it started in our own end. I don’t think we played well in any facet of the game. You’re not going to generate opportunities if you’re not playing a good team game.
Martinez, on any concern with the 1-6-1 preseason record:
I think it’s twofold. One, it doesn’t matter what it is – you want to be winning games, especially heading into the year. Tonight was unacceptable. I think that it needs to be addressed, and it will be addressed. We’ve already talked about it. We’ve got a lot of work to do this week, because we’ve got a pretty good hockey club to play on Friday. I guess just use it as a learning experience. There are no experiences – the time is now.
Anze Kopitar, on any concern after the preseason:
I don’t think we need to panic by any means, but we’ve got to know that puck management in that regard has to be a lot better. We have to sharpen up our game, for sure. Everybody in here knows that, and we’re going to work on it. It’s a big week ahead of us, and we’ll be ready for Friday.
Austin Wagner, on whether he was happy with what he showed in the preseason:
Yeah, obviously you want to get more wins, but it didn’t happen. Now it’s a process of either here or Ontario, but I put in my best effort, and that’s all I can do.
Wagner, on his emotions on the verge of the regular season:
I’m confident with the way I can play, and I think the coaches and the team know what I can bring to the table, but at the same time, it’s their decision, and I respect their decision. I could go back and develop a bit more. I understand that, and I’ve got lots of other things to work on in my game. It’s a process, and I understand that it’s not going to happen in one year – it could take two. I put my best effort forward, and that’s all I could do, and that’s all they asked of me.
Sunday, September 30 is an off-day for the team. The schedule for Monday is still TBD.
-Lead photo via Juan Ocampo/NHLI