Competition heats up in practice and for roster spots; more evaluations

A good afternoon to you from LA Kings HQ, Insiders. Several notes from Todd McLellan, who spoke after a spirited practice.

— There was a noticeable battle element that claimed some casualties. Apart from the general bumps and pushes, Adrian Kempe took a stick up high on a power play entry and Toby Bjornfot, while defending on the PK, was struck on the chin by a deflected puck and was still leaking quite a bit after returning to the room.

Between the players leaning on each other and a post-practice conditioning skate, there was a good amount of energy expended as more physical layers were added to the team’s purpose.

“Just another concept that we’re bringing in,” McLellan said. “I didn’t think our play, especially early in the game in Anaheim in and around our net was very good and it wasn’t something that we’ve worked a lot on, so we needed that factor both offensively and defensively, so we brought that into play in practice today, and inevitably that leads to some good grinding time I the paint and it forces the goalies to work real hard in those situations, but more importantly the defenders, so we had that today.”

— Coaches aren’t always keen on individualized player evaluations, but McLellan has been as accommodating as he has been honest. Paul LaDue didn’t have the summer opportunities to skate or participate in hockey activities and was thrown into the fire late in training camp. “In fairness to Paul, I would say Paulie’s a little rusty, but that’s to be expected,” he said. That his course for the season is expedited doesn’t work in his favor, especially as battle elements are applied as he finds his timing. “I don’t think we’ve seen the best Paul LaDue. I’m sure there’s more there.” He blocked three shots and was on the ice for Adam Henrique’s goal against in Wednesday’s 2-0 loss at Anaheim.

The Iafallo-Brown-Kopitar combination drew positive reviews for their attentiveness and standards, and while Carl Grundstrom was praised for his straight line play and his willingness “to skate through bouncing pucks and stay over top of them,” he’s still developing his consistency – as is a trait that all young players have to harness. “The cerebral part, the understanding of where to go positionally is coming, and I think right now, he’s giving us everything he has, and he’s perhaps thinking a little too much rather than reacting. But we have a team full of those people,” said McLellan, who expects such developments to ultimately come naturally. Joakim Ryan has brought veteranship and poise, though he’s still “finding his way with a new team and a new coach and a new system” as the team pushes to get the most out of him.

— Earlier this week, McLellan spoke of the players’ overall body of work when setting the roster, but to what degree is the final group settled?

“I would say that we’re going to move this thing forward day-by-day, and that’s a pretty generic answer, but what we have today and what we’re putting in place today might change tomorrow,” he said. “We feel we have players that are going to push – they’re already trying to push their way in here – and I keep saying ‘we have to be ready for them.’ Some, in my opinion, have pushed their way onto the team already, but we have to make sure they’re getting what they need as individuals to continue to develop ,and some spots have to be available for them to do that. Some players that they’re competing with haven’t given up their spots yet. Some are getting close to giving up their spots. So, it’s ever-evolving, it’s not a ‘hey, this is our team, let’s get going.’ Game 1 we could make a change. Game 2 we could make a change. It’s the only way to keep everybody honest.”

Teams must submit cap-compliant rosters of up to 23 players by October 1. “We’re not going to hurry anything. We’ll use the days that we need and continue to make decisions,” McLellan said.

— Neither Rasmus Kupari nor Jaret Anderson-Dolan skated with the team today. I’m not projecting either to open the season on the 23-man roster.

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