We’re back on the road tonight, Insiders! Hopefully my poor record as the LAKI was left on the East Coast after my last trip. The Kings were one the ice for a mostly full, but not completely full-team morning skate. And with that being said, the team did not have full lines or any line rushes that can be noted…..so we wait and we see.
Desjardins did not commit to any specific lines for tonight’s game, but did note after morning skate that he expects to move Adrian Kempe back to center, with Mike Amadio reassigned to Ontario earlier in the week.
Kings Vitals: What we do know, is that there were some goalie notes today. Cal Petersen was assigned to Ontario earlier today and Jack Campbell was recalled from his conditioning stint with the Reign, and was the last goalie on this morning. This points to Jonathan Quick as tonight’s projected starting goaltender. All time, Quick is 16-5-1 in 23 appearances against Colorado, with a 2.16 goals against average and a .917 save percentage. Defenseman Dion Phaneuf also skated this morning – See more below on his expected return to the lineup.
Avalanche Vitals: The Avalanche are expected to go with goaltender Semyon Varlamov in net. Varlamov has posted an 11-8-4 record in net this season, with a 2.79 goals against average and a .914 save percentage. Per the team’s official Twitter, the Avalanche are also not expected to begin with the trio of Gabriel Landeskog – Nathan MacKinnon – Mikko Rantanen, opting to move Landeskog to the second unit in favor of Tyson Jost, but Colorado Head Coach Jared Bednar said the line would be together at some point during the game.
“Trying to jumpstart the bottom said of forwards,” Bednar said of the decision to split up the top line. “The matchups, I think we can handle. We’ve shown all year, with them together, we have the checking line and the Soderberg line and we have different options, especially at home and I think we can take care of our matchups. It’s more just trying to see if we can spark a few guys and you’re going to see Landeskog, MacKinnon and Rantanen together tonight for sure, there’s no question. We’ve seen, in little glimpses that some other guys have done well on those lines and I thought Landy did a real nice job helping Kerfoot and Compher and they’re real excited to play with him, that was our best line through 30 minutes the other night. Having seen that, and speaking with Mac, Mikko and Josty, I think that they feel they can be better than they were the other night. If they do that, and we get the same sort of production and scoring chances out of our second line, then I like where we’re headed for tonight.”
— Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) December 31, 2018
Notes & Updates –
Starting with a return to action, Head Coach Willie Desjardins said yesterday that Dion Phaneuf told him that “he’s ready”, a sentiment that Phaneuf himself echoed after today’s morning skate, saying that he feels good in advance of tonight’s game.
The veteran defenseman noted that it’s not an easy thing to be on the sidelines but he said that he put the work in during the rehab process to get back in action, and that he’s ready to go, beginning with tonight’s game against the Avalanche.
“It’s never fun when you’re sitting out watching, but injuries are a part of the game,” Phaneuf said. “Knock on wood, I’ve been fortunate throughout my career to stay relatively healthy, so it’s a part of the business. It happens, but you rehab as quick as you can and you try to work as hard as you can off the ice. You can never emulate being on the ice, no matter how hard you work in the gym, it’s still an adjustment. I had a good couple of practices, to get my feet back underneath me, and tonight I’ll be ready to go.”
Phaneuf’s upper-body injury, which came during the game against Buffalo earlier this month, came at a time when he was playing his best hockey of the season, according to Desjardins.
“I thought the best he was playing was when he got hurt,” The Kings coach said following today’s morning skate. “I thought he came in those last two games and I thought he was playing a little bit more physical, he was more involved. I think he needs to bring that to his game. He’s got a lot of experience which helps us back there.”
Also re-joining the Kings today was goaltender Campbell, who was recalled from his conditioning stint with the AHL’s Ontario Reign earlier this morning, with Cal Petersen going the other way.
Campbell has posted a 5-7-0 record, a 2.33 goals-against-average, a .923 save percentage and one shutout in NHL action this season, before he was injured on November 10. It wasn’t originally known if Campbell would have surgery, or if he would be able to play through the injury, but he ultimately went with the decision that management felt was best for his long-term health.
“I mean, just whatever I had to do to try to help the team,” he said after today’s morning skate. “Obviously, management felt it was best to take care of it right away for the long term. Cal, Buuds and with Quickie coming back, they played amazing, so it was great to see that. It definitely helped, being out, seeing success with the goalies. It was really tough to not be out there.”
Tonight’s game will mark his return to the lineup, most likely coming in a backup role. Campbell had skated a few times with the group in practices, but then joined the Reign for a pair of games, departing with a 1-1-0 record. While he did mention that it was good to see the group in Ontario, it’s a great feeling to be back at the NHL level.
“It’s such a good feeling [to be back with the Kings],” Campbell said. “It’s been so long that I missed it. It’s good to see [the team] winning and hopefully we just keep it going.”
Jack Campbell on how he felt his conditioning stint went in Ontario
“Of course I didn’t want to give up any goals, but I feel better and got some work in and I feel a little bit more conditioned. I’m just ready to do whatever I have to do to help the team.”
On whether he feels at 100% after his two games with the Reign
I’m just trying to get a little better each day, I can still always get a lot better. It helped a lot and it was good to see those guys. I’m just trying to get a little bit better each day.
On whether Nate Thompson owes him a dinner after the freak play that led to his injury
Oh no, I mean, if anything, I owe him a dinner, for going so hard into the blue paint and helping me out, keep that one out. I think everybody saw that replay, it could have easily went in without him being there. Just a freak accident, but that’s just hockey.
Dion Phaneuf on re-adjusting to the game after being out of the lineup
The first shift in Colorado is always a little different with the altitude…but I’m going to prepare, I’m going to focus and be prepared to play, like I always do. For me, it’s about playing my game, I’ve got to be engaged physically, I’ve got to be moving my feet and come back to try and help the group win games, because guys have been playing very well as of late. When I was watching, I saw a lot of real good things of how our team has been playing. We want to continue to build, but for me, I’m ready to go and I’m really excited about it.
On how the defense has played in his absence, as of late
I think all the guys that have come into the lineup have really stepped up and done a really good job and that’s why you want to have depth on your team, whether it’s forwards or defensemen. I think the guys, you look at Walker, he came in and did a really good job, Pauly has played very well. It’s a credit to all the guys that have come in and done a really good job. Now, I’m back and I want to come in and I want to contribute and play hard for this group.
On Jake Muzzin’s play this season and whether he’s seen him take on more of a leadership role this season
I think Muzz has played really well for us all year. Now, he’s making some really, really good plays offensively, but he’s really strong defensively. He checks hard, he plays the game the right way and I enjoy playing on his team, because you watch him and he really has, this year, he’s played very well for us. It’s great to see and he’ll continue to do that and continue to keep making those plays. I just think, you see him, he’s really up in the play a lot, he’s aggressive up there, but when he’s up there, he’s making smart, good plays that allow us to create offense. He’s played very well for our team.
Willie Desjardins on area’s he’s hoping to clean up or be better at after Saturday in Vegas
I thought we had a pretty good start to that game, and a decent finish, but the middle part wasn’t good enough, we’ve got to be better in the second period for sure. I think we play better when we’re breaking out, I think that’s a key with any team, most teams come with a pretty hard forecheck, so we have to be ready for that. When our D are involved, I think that’s when we play our best.
On Sean Walker’s play
He’s been good. He’s added to us, I think offensively. I think he’s pretty creative, he can join the rush, he can skate. I think he still has to work on some of the defensive side of his game, there’s certain areas where he can get better, but it’s good to see a young guy like that come into the NHL and play with confidence.
On today’s optional skate and whether there may be more, approaching the heart of the schedule
You always do. For me, it’s important that we don’t leave our game on the practice ice. I’ve always believed that if we’re fresh then we’ll play hard, I think we have a group that wants to do well, so one of the big keys is that they’re fresh. Saying that, it’s good to see a few guys skating, because that indicates that they’re feeling pretty good right now, it’s not like they’re worn down, so that’s a good sign as well.