INSIDERS. Ahh, yes, the first Monday morning after the extended holiday and New Year’s celebrations. I hope you did not spend an hour on the 405 or 101 or 60 or any of the roughly 800 other freeways across Southern California today. The LA Kings commuted to the SAP Center and did not forecast any lineup changes in advance of tonight’s game against the San Jose Sharks (7:30 p.m. / NBCSN / NBC Sports App / LA Kings Audio Network):
–The vitals: Jonathan Quick left the ice first, but Jack Campbell didn’t hang around for much longer. Rather than insert the chin-scratching emoji here, we’ll project Quick – it’s San Jose, it’s not a back-to-back, and he’s going for win number 301. More on that in a moment. Matt Luff did remain on the ice for some extra detail as he looks to work a few things out in his game. “I sent him down earlier, and I told him he should be in the NHL, he should play there. He just had to work a little bit harder,” Willie Desjardins said. “He came back, and it was good, and he’s just seemed to have lost it a little bit lately. But, he’s an NHL player. He needs to play. He just has to get himself back going like he can go.” Los Angeles allowed 16 shots for the first time since the end of the 2016-17 season on Saturday night, so it’s not as if pressing changes were due.
–Their vitals: Martin Jones. At 10-3-3 in his career against Los Angeles with a 2.11 goals-against average and a .928 save percentage in – want to feel old? – 16 games, he’s put together a solid resume to be considered for the All-Regicide Team. San Jose is banged up on the back end but was still plenty capable Saturday night in ending Tampa Bay’s 15-0-1 stretch with a 5-2 win. Defensemen Justin Braun (IR/knee) and Marc-Edouard Vlasic (undisclosed) will miss tonight’s game, while forward Juraj Simek (concussion symptoms) is “questionable” but should play if he passes his concussion tests, per Paul Gackle of the San Jose Mercury News. Vlasic and Braun form a strong shut-down pairing for San Jose and average 21:38 and 19:54, respectively, so expect some heavy liftin’ by San Jose’s top dogs tonight. Via Gackle:
Regardless, DeBoer isn’t going to be shy about riding Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns again Monday with his top-shutdown pairing of Braun and Vlasic watching the game from the couch. Despite Braun and Vlasic’s absences, the Sharks ended the Lightning’s 16 game point streak Saturday, limiting the NHL’s No.1 offense to just 20 shots on goal.
Burns and Karlsson played big hands in that effort, logging 30:45 and 29:15 respectively while combining to record five points.
“Those minutes can catch up with you, but both guys have done it before and have done it for extended periods,” DeBoer said. “They’re both skaters, they both have that ability to recover quickly. If we were doing it for half a year, I might be concerned about it, but not for a week.”
The Sharks aligned with forward groupings of Sorensen-Thornton-Pavelski, Radil-Couture-Meier, Kane-Hertl-Donskoi and M. Karlsson-Goodrow-Labanc, and defensive pairings of Dillon-E. Karlsson, Ryan-Burns and Middleton-Heed. Jacob Middleton, selected by Los Angeles with the 210th and final pick of the 2014 NHL Draft, made his NHL debut on Saturday, logging 5:02 in the win over Tampa Bay. The defenseman has spent the last two-plus seasons with the AHL’s San Jose Barracuda.
–The most recent of the 36 goaltenders to reach the 300-win milestone, Jonathan Quick’s name shouldn’t fall too far out of the headlines. That’s because he’s only one win behind Mike Richter, whose 301 wins rank fourth all-time among American goalies. That’s a list led by John Vanbiesbrouck and Ryan Miller’s 374 wins – Miller, who made his debut in November, 2002 after a distinguished career at Michigan State, is currently on injured reserve with a sprained MCL – followed by Tom Barasso’s 369 and Richter’s 301.
Quick’s standing in league history and on the verge of siding up alongside a major influence in his career is an important emotive milestone that will, at some point, piggyback his 300th career win.
“It’s pretty special, and that’s a huge milestone for him, just due to the fact that he idolized Richter growing up, being from the New York-area,” Goaltending Coach Bill Ranford said. “Kudos to him with what he’s been able to do here in L.A. and with his career.”
Quick isn’t one for personal accolades, but wins should still hold up as an important statistic to a goalie apt to remind those who wax poetically about individual accomplishments that nothing is as important as two points in the standings. Add enough of those up, an you’ll have the opportunity to add to that total with playoff wins. Quick also has 46 of those, a haul that includes 16 wins in both 2012 and 2014.
“There’s always question marks of any guy starting out early on in his career, whether he could win in the playoffs,” Ranford said. “When you’ve got to beat good teams to get to the Final, that’s kind of a marker that you’ve finally gotten to where you need to get to. But I think most of all … he analyzes his game and is constantly trying to get better, and I think that’s probably what pushes him.”
That work continues tonight. The LA Kings are eight points out of a playoff spot, and while 14th place in the conference doesn’t inspire any playoff confidence whatsoever, that’s not something Quick is thinking about today. The team’s last two outings have represented the extreme ends of the performance spectrum, with their team-wide performance falling short in a 6-2 loss to league-leading Tampa Bay on Thursday in which Quick allowed six goals on 33 shots, followed up by a 4-0 romp over Edmonton in which he turned aside 16 shots to earn his 51st career shutout.
It has been a wonky year statistically for Quick, who endured a pair of injuries early in the season, one of which necessitated meniscus surgery. Entering tonight’s game versus the Sharks, it would be a nice perk if he lowered his 2.88 goals-against average and raised his .902 save percentage, but he’ll be happier, obviously, with a 7-6 win than a 1-0 loss.
Tending to “the little details” will be key, according to Ranford.
“Watching what teams are doing, attention to detail in his own game, whether it’s depth, reading releases, positioning. The game’s changed. He can’t be as aggressive anymore with the way that the teams are playing more of a rush game, so you’re not seeing those one-on-one plays as much anymore. It’s three-on-twos, four-on-twos, guys jumping up, so you’ve got to make adjustments to your depth in order to play those different concepts.”
–Alex Faust and Jamie Baker will call tonight’s game on NBCSN. Tonight’s officials are referees Brad Watson and Kyle Rehman and linesmen Greg Devorski and Lonnie Cameron. More to come on a game day, Insiders. Let’s talk soon.
Willie Desjardins, on facing a defense with Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson:
You have to make sure you’re in the shooting lanes in the offensive zone They’re exceptional. Burns getting pucks to the net is exceptional with that. Karlsson’s a guy that can join on the rush. He moves the puck well. I think both guys kind of give you a little bit of a different look, but both are high-end players, and we certainly will have to be aware of them when we’re on the ice.
Desjardins, on the first period challenges in San Jose:
Yeah, it’s a tough building. They’ve got a good team, they’ve got good crowds, they always come out hard, so we have to be aware of that, for sure.
Desjardins, on what he’s liked about the 6-3-0 stretch:
I think we’ve gotten a little bit more consistent. We’re moving the puck a little bit better, and throughout the year we’ve had good goaltending, which always is a plus, and our specialty teams have been better. Like, I think we had lots of games early we could’ve won if our specialty teams were maybe on top, but the last few games they’ve been contributing, and that’s been the difference. [Reporter: What’s been different on the special teams? Any tweaks?] No, I think a little bit of time. I think working together a little bit. I think that the penalty kill, Dave Lowry has them focused on maybe a couple things that they’ve got to be better at. Overall, it’s us realizing that if we’re not on top of our game in all areas, we’re not going to win, so I think everybody’s just kind of pushed a little harder.
Desjardins, on the importance of forwards’ back support to provide pressure and help the defense:
That’s a key throughout the game, throughout all our games. I think whenever you give high-end guys time, they’re going to score on you. This group here is a real high-end group. You’ve got to come back on their forwards, because if you don’t, they’ll make you pay as their D are joining, too. For sure we’re going to have to have back support tonight.
On the latest instalment of "This Week in @LAKings History" on @KingsMenPodcast, Jesse and I talked about the Kings' last game of the 90s, an 8-2 victory against the Oilers #GoKingsGo https://t.co/z5CBdRMzTB pic.twitter.com/76Uyj96leA
— Mike Commito (@mikecommito) January 7, 2019
–Lead photo via Brandon Magnus/NHLI