INSIDERS. A very happy solstice to you and yours. $50 towards LAKI Gold Status for anyone blogging from Stonehenge today. The Kings practiced at 10:00 a.m. before departing for San Jose and aligned thusly in advance of Saturday’s game versus the Sharks (1:00 p.m. / NBCSN / LA Kings Audio Network):
–The vitals: Jonathan Quick left the ice first in the last skate before a game; it’s not hard to project him to go in San Jose. He’s 15-11-6 with a 2.53 goals-against average, a .910 save percentage and three shutouts in 34 career appearances versus the Sharks, all starts. Kyle Clifford, Nikita Scherbak and Paul LaDue appeared to be extras. Ilya Kovalchuk, projected to play tomorrow in San Jose, was the first player on the ice and got some one-on-one time with Marco Sturm in and around the low slot. Carl Hagelin and Jonny Brodzinski skated for the third time this week in track suits, lightly handling pucks. They’re still a ways out. More on Kovalchuk’s return to the lineup can be found here; notes on recent call-ups Michael Amadio, Austin Wagner and Sean Walker are below. It was the third lengthy skate of the week and had both five-on-five and special teams elements.
–Their vitals: San Jose is coming off a 5-3 home loss as the most recent stop on Winnipeg’s California circuit, one in which the Sharks out-shot the Jets, 44-24. They’d won seven of eight prior to that. San Jose has averaged 4.5 goals per game over their last six, a span in which they haven’t been held below three. They’re healthy.
#SJSharks lines this AM
Couture w/Hertl, Meier
Pavelski w/Kane, Donskoi
Thornton w/Sorensen, Labanc,
Goodrow w/Karlsson, Radil
— Curtis Pashelka (@CurtisPashelka) December 21, 2018
“They’re a good team,” Willie Desjardins said. “Lots of skill, they’re a hard team to play in the offensive zone. They get lots of high tips. They’re deep throughout, and their building is a tough building to play in. It’s a real similar game to Winnipeg for us.”
–So, you may have noticed that there are three players on lines and pairings – Michael Amadio, Austin Wagner and Sean Walker – that had been assigned to AHL-Ontario on Wednesday. Essentially, this sort of transaction in which all three were assigned Wednesday morning and recalled Friday is a maneuver to bank salary cap space that may be needed down the line. It’s made possible under the loophole-laden Holiday Roster Freeze, which can be adjusted a bit with a lever pull here or there. Though the “freeze” essentially stipulates no trades, waivers or demotions after December 19, players recalled from the AHL after December 11 may still be returned prior to December 23 at 11:59 p.m., as noted in this handy CapFriendly chart. So, they could very well be assigned back to Ontario after the Vegas game, and, hypothetically, recalled just in time for the morning skate prior to the Arizona game on December 27 as the team continues to accrue cap space, dollar by dollar. These are some interesting and deft maneuvers facilitated by parent and farm teams under one roof; the morning after Wagner scored two goals in a win over Winnipeg, he was on the ice early at Toyota Sports Center, practicing with the Reign.
In any event, the trio is back up and projected to get into Saturday afternoon’s game.
Willie Desjardins on Matt Luff:
He’s got a great shot. He releases the puck well. Good speed, good size. We sent him down earlier, and when I sent him down, you guys all know, I said ‘I think he can play in the league. It’s not like that.’ But I think he came back and he was working hard. I think the biggest things he needs is consistency in his game. I think when he gets consistency, then I think he’ll be an everyday player, for sure. He’s a guy capable playing on your top-three lines. I think right now, I like the Amadio line. They’ve played well together. I think it’s easier sometimes for three young guys to be together than with a vet where they think they always have to get him the puck.
Desjardins, on anything Michael Amadio has added recently:
No, I think what’s good about him, the other two guys create him a little bit of space. Because of their speed, they push guys back, and he’s a guy that likes to handle the puck. He’s good with the puck, and when the D get backed off, it helps him. He’s good in his own zone, as well, but I think with all those young guys, one advantage, too, is experience. When you have three young guys, the thing you lack there is experience, so that makes it harder. But, anyways, you try to juggle that where you get a little bit of both, but they’ve been playing well. They were probably our fourth set, and I didn’t play them that way as those two games went on. The last two games, they kind of rose up in the lineup a little bit.
Desjardins, on Sean Walker:
He’s been good. He moves well, he moves the puck well, I like the way he joins the rush. It’s a little bit tough, too. When we get a lot of young guys in, you do get a few more mistakes. That creates a little bit of trouble, but with the mistakes, you also get some energy. He’s been good. I like the way he’s played. I think he’s added to our group.
–Very good news: The Kings are acquiring Pickwick ice and investing money to rebrand it and install a number of improvements. Via a team release on LA Kings Ice at Pickwick Gardens:
The initial changes to the facility will include: Removal and replacement of cold floor pipes; chiller re-build and upgrades; removal of heaved concrete and ice rink floor (to NHL acceptable tolerances); repair and renovate the existing sub-floor heat system; install cold floor center feed headers and pipes; upgrade board system and tempered glass; interior painting with Kings branding and graphics; and install new exterior signage with Kings branding.
Along with the planned construction of the Reseda rink, this is the second San Fernando Valley facility in the last four months the team announced it will be investing money and capital in, and as those who play at Pickwick know ::nervously tugs collar:: it’s due for some sprucing up. More to come.
–From Mike Commito of LAKings.com: From King to Coach: Marco Sturm’s Story
–Lead photo via Juan Ocampo/NHLI