Insiders. Thank you for the patience over the last several days. Let’s get caught up with several important notes that you should be aware of heading into tonight’s game against the Flyers (7:30 p.m. / FOX Sports West / FOX Sports app / LA Kings Audio Network):
–Jonathan Quick underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus and will be out for roughly three-to-six weeks, with perhaps a maximum recovery time of two months. This prompted a question about how to soldier on, with John Stevens referencing the confidence in Jack Campbell and Peter Budaj and the success the team had found in prior goaltenders who’d stepped in to win games when Quick had a night off or was unavailable.
“Jack’s going to get an opportunity now. Jack’s come a long way. He’s worked hard on his game, he’s gone down to the minors and really performed well, and now he’s putting himself in a position where when the opportunity comes, we expect him to be ready for it,” said Stevens, who noted Campbell’s excitement to the be the team’s bell cow for the immediate future.
Interestingly, the Kings haven’t had any set of back-to-back games this season – and won’t until they visit Chicago and Nashville on November 16 and 17 – so there hasn’t been a front-and-center need for the third-string goaltender to step in and start a game. And Campbell, who has gone 3-4-0 with a 2.72 goals-against average and a .912 save percentage, has done everything asked of him through a solid first month in which the starter’s duties abruptly fell into his lap.
But there’s also Peter Budaj, who stopped 10 of 11 shots while spelling Campbell midway through the team’s 5-1 loss at Ottawa last month and wasn’t used frequently by a sturdy Tampa Bay team last season, compiling a 3-3-1 record with a 3.76 GAA and an .876%. Budaj helped save a Kings season from toppling over a cliff before, and Stevens was quick to dismiss uncertainty over whether he’d be confident sending him back out for important starts this time around.
“For sure. Peter’s a member of our hockey team. We expect him to be ready to play. Our team’s actually done a really good job over the last couple years performing in back-to-back situations,” said Stevens, who cited Darcy Kuemper and Campbell’s performances last season. “We’d have no problem putting him in the net.”
–Not a good sign: One day after leaving practice early, Paul LaDue was unable to participate in the morning skate Thursday morning, per Reign Insider Zach Dooley. “The fact that he’s not on the ice isn’t good, but it’s not a long-term situation, it’s more day-to-day,” said Stevens, who said that although the team kept him off the ice, it was done so “in hopes that he can start skating again hopefully as early as tomorrow.” It’s an upper-body injury.
–Jeff Carter reunited with familiar faces in Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli against the Rangers and took four shots on goal and finished a plus-one in 17:05 of work. The line largely played in the offensive end, which it will need to do to help get Carter into one of his familiar scoring grooves. The former Flyer enters tonight’s game with one assist in his last four games and with two goals and five points in 12 games, and on Wednesday, Stevens was asked whether Carter is still dealing with his ankle injury. (He is.) Stevens shared an answer that wasn’t overly reassuring, but did share exactly where Carter is at through the most strenuous playing/rehabilitation work of his career.
“I think you go through that type of injury, I’m never sure you ever get back to exactly where you were, but we put him on the wing for a while this year, it seemed like he was moving better,” Stevens said. “I think over time his pace out of the hole has gotten better. I think he’s always had good pace when he’s moving, but I think his pace out of the hole has gotten a lot better, and I think his game’s starting to get a little more sound where he’s carrying speed underneath the puck a lot. He’s always been a guy that can create numbers on the rush from not being above the puck, and I think we’re really seeing him start to get back to that. But I think he’s skating better now, I think he’s running in a little more straight lines in terms of being in position under the puck, and it’s allowed him to spend more time out of our zone and spend more time with the puck in the offensive zone.”
Though Carter was affected by his surgically repaired ankle laceration last season, his superb hockey instincts and awareness allowed him to pot goals on the power play and by getting to hard areas around the net while benefiting from tips, deflections and second rebound looks.
“I think the power play, as much as you don’t want to just point to the power play, I think when it comes to guys like Jeff and Kopi and Kovy and those guys, I think when the power play has success, it feeds success in their five-on-five game, and I thought that was present in the last game against the Rangers,” Stevens said.
Much of what we’ve heard about Carter’s extensive work to build back his strength and explosiveness aligns with the “work in progress” theme we’d heard around these parts. As shared above, players don’t always revert to pre-injury performance after the type of injury (and surgery) Carter endured.
–Speaking of the Flyers, would you like a detailed scouting report on tonight’s opposition in under one minute?
Here’s Stevens breaking down what the Kings should expect to see from a 5-7-0 Philadelphia group that ended a three-game losing streak by winning the opener of a four-game Pacific Division trip with a 3-2 win at Anaheim on Tuesday:“They’re a team that has a very active defense. They’ve got a couple young guys on the back end that are pushing the puck up the ice all the time and are creating numbers on the rush, very active in the offensive zone. I think they’re a very good rush attack team, and their rush sets up their cycle game. I know the power play hasn’t had success lately, but it’s dangerous. They made some few minor switches there in terms of personnel, but the philosophy’s the same. They use the width of the ice, they attack from both sides, they have a really strong net presence, I and I think their power play can be a real source of confidence for them, so we’re going to have to be a disciplined hockey team.”
Inside the numbers, there are some interesting trends that Stevens noted come with an early-season asterisk. Citing the fancystats, he called attention to a team that despite having allowed more goals than any other NHL squad, ranks third in the league with average of 27.2 5×5 shots-against. Per Natural Stat Trick, they’ve also been stingy allowing scoring chances.
“If you look at the analytics in terms of ‘don’t look at the score, just look at what they’ve given up and what they’ve created,’ it’s a little bit of an oddity, to be honest with you. They’ve actually defended pretty well. The chances they give up in the slot is a reduced number,” Stevens said.
Such 5×5 play may pose a particular challenge to the Kings, in the bottom quadrant of 5×5 shot-generating teams. If we’re looking at some of the more basic secondary numbers, these appear to be two possession-neutral teams that have been scorched on special teams this year, with Philadelphia ranking 22nd and 30th in power play and penalty kill, and Los Angeles 29th and 20th.
“I think if you just look from an analytical standpoint, the amount of shots they give up is not a high volume,” Stevens said. “It’s a small sample because it’s early in the year, but teams have capitalized on the chances they have gotten, but I think sometimes you get down in games and you start pushing the envelope. Like I said, you’re going to have to work to get offense from them, because they actually defend those tough, danger areas of the ice pretty well.”
–Familiar adversary Brian Elliott will start in goal for Philadelphia, who will be without James van Riemsdyk (knee), Corban Knight (collarbone), Michael Raffl (ankle) and Samuel Morin (knee). There are so many Philadelphia-Los Angeles crossovers, and Christian Folin is the latest to have played for both squads. “I wanted to stay,” Folin told Dave Isaac of the South Jersey Courier-Post. “I thought it was a nice spot. I enjoyed living out here but at the same time I was really excited when Philly reached out to me and my agent. I’ve been really enjoying my time in Philly. It’s a fun place to live and a fun group to be a part of. I don’t have to look back. It was a good year here (in Los Angeles) but it’s over and now I’m part of this organization and I expect us to have a long season.”
–Officials are referees Chris Schlenker and Kevin Pollock and linesmen Travis Gawryletz and Brian Mach. Katrina Woolverton will sing tonight’s national anthem. See you at Staples, Insiders.
–Lead photo via Harry How/Getty Images
–Audio provided via Zach Dooley, Ontario Reign Insider