October 31: Wagner, Walker assigned; LaDue leaves early; Vilardi update - LA Kings Insider

INSIDERS. Though the Jonathan Quick news took precedence over everything else this afternoon, the Kings did hold a Toyota Sports Center practice at 10:00 a.m. this morning and were color-coded thusly:

Gray: Iafallo-Kopitar-Brown
Blue: Pearson-Carter-Toffoli
White: Kovalchuk-Kempe-Lewis
Yellow: Pearson-Thompson
Red: Vilardi

Notes!

–The Kings made a pair of roster moves Wednesday morning, assigning Austin Wagner and Sean Walker to AHL-Ontario. These moves are largely influenced on lineup needs for upcoming games within the parameters of the salary cap. In other words, when both the Kings and Reign are in town, practicing under the same roof, Los Angeles has the flexibility to make recalls and assignments based on the lineup they’d like to use against their next opponent, as long as the player they’d like to recall fits under the cap. “I think we have two young players that we’re fond of there, and the fact that we’re so close now, I think there could be a lot of movement back-and-forth that could be helpful to the player and the team,” John Stevens said after practice. Expect a roster move to be announced at 10:00 a.m. Thursday morning.

–Paul LaDue left practice early and was followed into the Kings’ team area by Assistant Athletic Trainer Miles Hirayama, which caught our eye. Stevens hadn’t yet received an update on LaDue at the time he met with the media. “Never good that he doesn’t finish practice, but I don’t think it’s anything that major, just something where we’re going to have to talk to the trainers and see exactly where he’s at,” he said. “I still think he could be a possibility to be healthy for tomorrow, it’s just something that didn’t allow him to continue.” Even after Walker’s assignment, the Kings have seven active defensemen and would not need to make a roster move if LaDue is unavailable Thursday.

–More injury news. But the better kind! Gabriel Vilardi continues to progress, even though he’s still out indefinitely. An update, via Stevens: “I think they have a plan right now where they progressed him to four straight days on the ice last week, and this week [they’re] going to and up it and get him to an extended day, a little more activity where he’s not practicing on his own, he’s more integrated with the group, and just see how he responds from there. Credit to him – he’s worked hard, he’s come in to practice and fit in pretty good. He handles the pace, thinks the game really well. The more he can practice with the group, the more I think he’s going to progress along, and twofold: one, getting his timing back and his pace and conditioning to where it needs to be, and making sure that his body reacts favorably to that type of workload. We don’t have a timeline on him right now. The fact that he’s at least integrated into practice in a red jersey is a good sign of progress.”

Vilardi’s silky-smooth hands make up a part of a highly skilled package. We’ve spoken about how some players might need a few days or games to regain their reads, or their legs, but what about hands?

“I think [my absence] affects hands, but once you’ve got guys coming at you and you’ve got to read and react, then it kind of changes everything. But you can work on things by yourself, and like I said, once you get thrown into a team setting its different,” he said, noting that he’s also getting comfortable through his repetition in drills. These practices, in which he has been clad in a red, no-contact jersey, are his first official practices in a Kings jersey. “It’s frustrating, but you try to keep a positive mindset.”

–Anze Kopitar was pithy and direct when asked about an area the Kings could build on from Sunday’s win. “Special teams,” was his answer. He was also asked about Dustin Brown’s return to being a net-front menace on the power play and referred to the first of Los Angeles’ two bang-bang power play goals, which started with Henrik Lundqvist stopping his snapper from the right side.

“I thought I shot it pretty hard, too, but it just got a piece of him, and it comes around and Chucky does the same thing from the other side, and it comes right on Brownie’s tape,” Kopitar said. “Sometimes that’s all it takes, really – shoot the puck, get them on their heels, maybe facing their net a little bit more than they want to, and then you just find the plays that we did on the second one. The mentality of attacking the net and shooting the puck opens a lot more seam passing and all that stuff.”

Via the Kings, Hockey Night in Los Angeles series begins Saturday. A preview of what to expect:

The Los Angeles Kings, in conjunction with FOX Sports West, this week will launch ‘Hockey Night in Los Angeles,’ a series of special weekend games in which the club’s broadcasts and activations in and around STAPLES Center will look and feel different, including celebrity guests, debate-themed programming and outdoor fan fests featuring live music acts.

Kings fans can expect the following to begin this Saturday, November 3, when the Kings host the Columbus Blue Jackets at 7:30 p.m.:

-A celebrity “Guest of Honor” featured on the broadcast each night including Eric Stonestreet this Saturday.
-“LA Kings Live” pregame show to welcome former Kings forward Derek Armstrong alongside Patrick O’Neal and Jarret Stoll for a debate panel discussing Kings and NHL storylines.
-New video series hosted by former Kings forward Teddy Purcell.
-Kings Broadcasters participating in a “Survivor Pool” as part of each broadcast.
-Special video features focused on Youth Hockey in Southern California during most broadcasts.

This Saturday actor Eric Stonestreet will be the featured celebrity guest. Stonestreet is the co-star of ABC’s Modern Family. For the November 10 game, Kevin Ryder – the co-host of KROQ’s popular Kevin & Bean morning radio program – will be the celebrity guest.

–As part of the in-arena experience, Kings fans can expect the following during Hockey Night in Los Angeles games:

-Outdoor pregame fan fests prior to most evening games featuring a variety of live music acts.
-New in-arena Saturday Night Opening video for most of the games.
-Anthem performances by, among others, Mike Yung (Nov. 3); Daniel Emmett (Nov. 10); and multiple appearances by Pia Toscano.

–Lead photo via Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI