INSIDERS. Several quick hits of information:
–Sean Walker, who took a horrific puck to the face on Thursday, is recovering and in some pain but appears to have escaped major injury. There’s no concussion, and per Lisa Dillman of The Athletic, there’s no fracture. The team will know more about Walker on Saturday; Willie Desjardins said he didn’t know if he’d be able to play against Boston. “It’ll be uncomfortable, for sure,” he said.
“He’s cut pretty bad. Certainly he’s got to be really uncomfortable, but I talked to him this morning. It didn’t get his eye, it didn’t get any teeth, so it could be worse.”
–Jeff Carter is progressing. “I think Carter’s looked good the last couple days. He looked good again today again skating, so I think there’s a chance we’ll see him tomorrow,” Desjardins said.
–Michael Vartan will be Saturday’s Celebrity Guest of Honor for Hockey Night in LA. Via the Kings:
A long-time hockey fan and recreational player, Vartan was last seen starring in E! Network’s, The Arrangement. Previously, Vartan had a recurring role in USA Network’s Satisfaction. He also played a key role in Season two of A&E’s Bates Motel as the new romantic interest for Norma (played by Emmy nominee Vera Farmiga), and for three seasons he starred alongside Jada Pinkett Smith in TNT’s medical drama Hawthorne.
On the feature front, Vartan was last seen in Small Town Crimes, which premiered at SXSW, opposite John Hawkes, and a starring role in the New Line feature film, Within. He previously starred opposite Zoe Saldana in Columbiana for TriStar Pictures.
Vartan joins Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family), Jeff Garlin (Curb Your Enthusiasm), Kevin Ryder (KROQ), Andy Lassner (Ellen), Thomas Middleditch (Silicon Valley), Willie O’Ree (hockey pioneer/Hockey Hall of Famer) and entertainment icon Snoop Dogg as the Celebrity Guest of Honors to date. Other celebrity announcements will be revealed in the coming weeks.
Hockey Night in LA – which launched last November in conjunction with FOX Sports West – is a series of special weekend games in which club broadcasts and activations in and around STAPLES Center have a different silver-themed feel, including celebrity guests, debate-themed programming and outdoor fan fests featuring live music acts. The Kings also wear their new Silver Jerseys for all Saturday home games.
–So, you may have noticed: Austin Wagner has had a hot hand as of late. The 21-year-old rookie forward has three goals over his last two games and is providing the speed necessary even among depth forward groups in the modern game.
Wagner didn’t seem to be affected by the shoulder stinger he received from Vancouver defenseman Guillaume Brisebois and was able to unleash the full capacity of his shot during an optional practice at Toyota Sports Center. Wagner and Michael Amadio – two of the three youngest players on the Kings – scored in Thursday’s 4-3 shootout loss, and on Friday, Wagner and Desjardins weighed in on what’s been working well recently for the two young forwards who, along with Kyle Clifford, have combined for five goals and 12 points over the last six games.
Willie Desjardins, on Michael Amadio:
I think he’s played well coming up. He’s a good young player, he’s got a good stick, I think he’s been able to move in in a few different places. Whenever you’re a smart player like he is, I think it makes you a little bit more versatile, so he’s been good. [Reporter: Where has he improved from his most recent stint to know where he’s up?] I liked him before, too, when he was up. It’s not that I’ve never not liked him. I think he’s one of those players that probably plays just as well in the NHL as he does in the AHL. Like, I think sometimes you look at his numbers in the AHL, and you think, ‘well, maybe he’s not doing that good,’ but I think his game’s suited a little bit more for the NHL, just because of the way he reads the ice and things like that. But I think overall it’s just being a little bit smarter, knowing what he can do. It’s hard for young guys because they always want something. He knows he doesn’t get a lot of ice time, so it’s like, I’m going to make something this shift. I’m not leaving until I make something happen,’ and it’s a good attitude to have, but at the same time you can never overextend your shifts, or that’s when you get in trouble.
Desjardins, on Kyle Clifford’s ability to get around the rink:
I think in some ways his role has changed a little bit. Before, I think he was a little bit more of an enforcer, a guy that had to play that role more, and I think the league’s gone away from that a little bit, so now he has more room just to play, and he sees himself in a different light, too, I think a little bit. Like what I said before, when I first came up, I always saw him in the video, he was great. And I thought the [Bellemare] hit, I thought he backed off a little bit. He’ll probably disagree with me, but I didn’t think he played quite as good for a little bit of a segment. But he’s playing great again. He just works so hard. Every battle is a hard, one-on-one battle. You’ve got to appreciate what he’s given to the team. And he’s been good, too, because his ice time has been limited. It’s not like he’s gotten a lot of ice time. He’s found a way to stay in games, and that’s hard, a nd he’s found a way to do it and contribute whenever he gets a chance.
Austin Wagner, on working on his shot:
I think right now it’s just focusing on getting it off quicker. Before, I was passing up a lot of shooting opportunities and I’m just trying to shoot as many as I can right now. I’m pretty lucky they’re going in. It’s just the way it works sometimes. Just got to keep shooting. I think I’m starting to go to the net a little bit more, too. That’s where a lot of the goals are scored. It doesn’t have to be pretty. Nobody really cares how you score it. Tomas Holmstrom scored 30 year by standing in front of the net and made $7-million a year. … I’m starting to learn that’s a good place to go, and I’ve been watching guys on our team and how they do it. Obviously Kovy has a great shot, Carts, guys like that. I’m just trying to get it off quicker. I think that’s the biggest thing – if I can surprise the goaltender. That goal in Philly, it was on and off my stick right away. Basically, I had that whole side. I could put it anywhere there. Just had to hit the net. … But I think I’ve just got to focus on hitting the net. Last game, I was just thinking ‘hit the net,’ and it ended up being a pretty good shot over the shoulder, so it worked out pretty well.
Wagner, on whether there’s less hesitation with his shot:
It’s just instinct now. I think in my head, as soon as I get a puck, I’m thinking either shoot – there was a play last game where we had a 3-on-2, and Mods was kind of covered, so I just threw it at the net, and I think Cliffy got a good piece of it. But we’ve got plays like that with middle drive. I think our line’s doing all that – Mods is scoring, Cliffy’s scoring, Cliffy’s assisting. We’re doing the little things, and I think all three of us are getting to the net, which is resulting in a lot of scoring chances, and if it’s not scoring chances, it’s pushing all their D back towards the net.
Wagner, on whether he read a defensive screen on his first period goal:
No, I kind of lifted my head up as soon as I got the puck, and I saw the D-man was there. Our development group, we always work on pulling it around sticks and things like that, because that’s just the way it’s going to be. You’re never going to get a clean shot, really, unless you’re on a breakaway. I kind of just though, OK, change the angle, so I pulled it in a little bit. Not a lot, but just a tiny bit – just off my toe to my heel, basically, and just tried to shoot it. It worked out well, I guess. It went in the net.
Congrats to Sean O’Donnell being honored! LA Kings Legend night. OD just the very coolest and we had a blast working together. So special and I’m happy for his family. pic.twitter.com/DyAoeKiTLy
— Patrick O'Neal (@Patrick_ONeal) February 15, 2019
–Lead photo via Adam Pantozzi/NHLI