INSIDERS. A fine Tuesday to you all. The LA Kings took the Toyota Sports Center ice shortly before 10:00 a.m. and aligned as such in advance of Lubomir Visnovsky’s Legends Night game against Arizona (7:30 p.m. / FOX Sports West / FOX Sports app / LA Kings Audio Network):
–The vitals: Jonathan Quick left the ice and is expected to start versus Arizona, against whom he is 18-17-4 in his career with a 2.55 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage. Six of his 50 career shutouts have come against the Coyotes, the most he has recorded against any NHL team. Nikita Scherbak has not yet been activated from injured reserve, nor has his visa been finalized, so he remained on the ice for some extra work with Paul LaDue and Cal Petersen. Sheldon Rempal, who has no points and a minus-one rating in seven games, was assigned to AHL-Ontario. Brendan Leipsic, who had two goals and five points in 17 games with Vancouver, is expected to make his Los Angeles debut alongside Nate Thompson and Michael Amadio at the start of tonight’s game. Asked for an initial impression of Scherbak and Leipsic after their first on-ice session, Willie Desjardins praised both players’ skill, which is something the organization is concertedly targeting. “I like the way they skate, but I like their skill,” he said. “It’s hard to make any kind of reads in practice, but just from looking at ‘em, they both look good.”
–Their vitals: Reigning second star of the week Adin Hill, who is 3-0-0 and has stopped 60 of 61 shots through four games (two starts), is expected to start in goal and will be backed up by Calvin Pickard. Darcy Kuemper (IR) and Antti Raanta are both day-to-day with lower-body injuries, though Raanta traveled with the team. Arizona is also without Christian Dvorak (IR/upper-body) and Jason Demers (IR/lower-body), as well as forward Michael Grabner, who took a nasty Sammy Blais stick to his right eye Saturday. The Coyotes lead the league with 10 shorthanded goals. Four have been scored by thre injured Grabner, three by ex-King Brad Richardson. “They look to jump, and lots of times that’s a great way to kill a power play,” Desjardins said. “All of a sudden if you’re willing to jump, then the power play has to back off a little bit, so we do have to respect that.” The Coyotes have played in 15 games decided by three or more goals – the second-highest in the league – and have won eight of them. It was announced today in the expansion releases that when Seattle enters the league and joins the Pacific Division in 2021-22, Arizona will hop over to the Central. When that happens, it will mark the first time since 1981-82 that the Kings and Jets/Coyotes have been in separate divisions.
–Earlier today we learned from Desjardins that Trevor Lewis had suffered a “setback” in his efforts to return from a fractured foot suffered at the morning skate in Chicago on November 16. Rather than anything involved with his training, it was more just the recalibration of the type of his injury “where we thought it was maybe going to be something a little quicker, and now they have to reevaluate,” Desjardins said. The update is in: Lewis had surgery this morning to stabilize the fracture in his foot, per LA Kings PR, and will be expected to miss four-to-five weeks from today. He has two goals and three points in 17 games.
–Meanwhile, Jack Campbell is coming along. “I don’t know when he’s going to skate, but his progress has been good,” Desjardins said. In Calgary last week, LAKI shared that his injury, which necessitated the same surgery as Quick, was expected to sideline Campbell for “a touch longer” than Quick. He injured his meniscus on November 10, so this Saturday will represent the four-week anniversary of an injury that was expected to sideline him for four-to-six weeks. Quick returned after just over five weeks, for what it’s worth.
–Kempe vs. Kempe! Remember Adrian Kempe’s first NHL goal, a slick game-winner against Washington late in the 2016-17 season? Whether you do or you don’t, here it is:
Mario Kempe, a forward for Arizona, was on hand to witness it.
“My dad was here, my brother was here and that was really fun,” said Adrian, eight years Mario’s junior. “I remember he was probably more glad for me than I was, and it’s always been like that. He’s always been on my side and he’s always more excited when I do stuff than if he did stuff. It’s been great support for me so far and I remember he was so pumped up after that goal, too. It was crazy.”
Though they’ve played against each other in the preseason, tonight’s game will mark the first time they’ve ever faced off against each other in a regular-season NHL game. The brothers’ mother is in town for what will probably get some spin around the Västernorrland County hamlet of Kramfors.
“I’ll probably say something [to Mario], but when the game goes on, you try to focus on the game and you’re not going to think about it as much,” Adrian said. “I’ll probably talk to him a little bit maybe in warmups.”
Mario is projected to enter back into the Coyotes lineup to replace Grabner, out with the eye injury. Originally selected by Philadelphia in the fifth round of the 2007 NHL Draft, he has two goals and four points in 22 career NHL games, all with Arizona. Mario also came up through the MODO Hockey junior ranks but departed Sweden to play major junior hockey with former QMJHL outlet St. John’s from 2006-08 – don’t confuse them with current QMJHL organization Saint John – before returning to Europe to play for Rogle, Djurgardens and (again) MODO in the SHL, and then KHL-Vityaz from 2014-17. “I’m going to try to play my game, what I’m good at,” Mario said after today’s morning skate. “Get to loose pucks and forecheck hard and bring a two-way game.”
Though Mario also took warm-ups prior to a 3-2 Arizona overtime win at Gila River Arena last November, they haven’t faced each other on the ice since the September, 2017 exhibition season.
“Every time you’re on the bench and you see him out there, obviously you’re watching him,” Adrian said. “I mean, it was a special moment and it’s going to be even more exciting tonight to play him in the regular season.”
–Interesting conversations with Leipsic and Scherbak to come! Scherbak, who took note of several LeBron James posters during his transit and across the South Bay in one day in Los Angeles, is excited to return to California. “We had a tournament with a team from Moscow,” he said. “We flew all the way, and I was the youngest guy, so my parents barely let me go fly 14 hours on the plane and go so far. But like I said earlier, Anaheim, L.A., we traveled to San Diego. For me back then, I went to Disneyland. I was like, “oh my God, this is a dream.’ California dreaming. Since then, I’ve never been in L.A. This is my legit first time around [since], so I’m really excited.”
–More to come from Leipsic and Scherbak, as well as the NHL news from the Board of Governors meetings. Tonight’s officials are referees Gord Dwyer and Garrett Rank and linesmen Matt MacPherson and Steve Miller. Carlos Loera will perform the national anthem. Let’s talk soon, Insiders.
The one and only @CarrlynBathe does it all. Fun SOT (as we say in the biz) from newest @LAKings Nikita Scherbak (perfect English mind you) and Brendan Leipsic to hear on the PRE! pic.twitter.com/mVPoQzyhaz
— Patrick O'Neal (@Patrick_ONeal) December 4, 2018
–Lead photo via Norm Hall/NHLI