Forbort update; Doughty, Walker, Lizotte, Shafigullin notes; Hockey Fights Cancer, Make-A-Wish events

INSIDERS. More Gabe Vilardi content from Tucson tonight, courtesy of Reign Insider. But first, a run-down of the goings-on at Toyota Sports Performance Center, which included Derek Forbort’s first full-team practice with his Kings teammates and a special visit in the lead-up to Hockey Fights Cancer night.


— There’s no timetable on Forbort’s return. “He’s been cleared to practice,” Todd McLellan said of the defenseman rehabbing a back injury. “He’ll have to manage himself within a practice, know how far he can push himself. But he’s been good to practice now. We’ve still got a long ways to go with him, but he’s making strides.”

It’s a good sign that he graduated from skating with Ontario to soldier through L.A.’s skate Friday when as of last week he was still getting in more individualized attention alongside Gabe Vilardi and the development staff. He took some light resistance in two-on-two drills late in practice and expressed encouragement in his rehab progress. “I’m feeling pretty good, and it just kind of comes down to me getting my touches back and my timing back and getting up to the game speed now. It’s a little different speed out there than having Jarret Stoll streaking through the middle for you on one-on-one ice. No offense to Stolly.”

He praised John and Lisa Meyer at the Keck Medicine USC and Meyer Institute of Sport within Toyota Sports Performance Center as they helped him work through his injury, which also addressed “a ton of hip stuff.”

“A ton of hip and core – a lot of that stuff helps to stabilize your body and prevent stuff like this that happens. I owe a lot to John and Lisa Meyer.”

Forbort began to skate in a track suit at TSPC in late October, the first time he’d returned to on-ice activities since testing his progress shortly before training camp.

“I didn’t really skate all summer, and it was kind of the week before training camp, I just skated hard for four straight days, and by the end of that, I was in pretty rough shape. I think we knew then that I just had to take a step back and really figure out what was going on,” he said.

— 12-year-old Jacob Brown, his parents and a cousin were guests of the LA Kings on Friday as part of a partnership with Make A Wish Foundation. Brown is a hockey player from Huntsville, Alabama – he is very familiar with Nic Dowd, though Dowd might be rattled to hear Brown is a Crimson Tide fan – who is battling leukemia and is embedded with the team through Saturday’s game.

Rob Blake signed Brown to a two-day contract this morning, after which he observed practice with Daryl Evans from the bench. He joined the group at the end of the skate and scored a goal on Jonathan Quick, leading to a celebration in which he “just put the sword away,” as he described it. As he removed his gear after the game, Blake Lizotte came by to give him a fist bump and commend him on a good practice.

“We had two Brownies in practice today,” McLellan said. “Both of them were good.”

Brown will take one lap with the team in warm-ups and will get a post-game locker room tour from Drew Doughty while visiting the FOX Sports West broadcast and being joined by Bailey and the ice crew.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to get reminded how some of the real world lives. To have young men like that come in and us have the chance to fulfill his wish is a pretty special thing for our group,” McLellan said.

Brown wore a big smile through the team’s facility, which also included a lunch with the team. “I just had a fun time. Lots of fun hanging out with the guys,” he said. “They just have fun and enjoy playing hockey.”

Tomorrow is the Kings’ Hockey Fights Cancer game. More information is below.

— I’ll have more either tomorrow or Monday, but I recently spoke with Assistant General Manager Michael Futa, who returned earlier this week from an extended scouting trip in which he caught the Karjala Cup, the U-18 and U-20 camps and exhibitions and several club games. That included a KHL game between Nizhnekhamsk and Dynamo Moscow in which he saw Bulat Shafigullin, who dealt with injury early in the season and is in the process of working his way back into the regular rotation of a Neftekhimik team that was near the tail end of a 10-game winning streak while Futa visited. A 2018 third round pick who turns 20 on December 29, Shafigullin has spent most of the season in the MHL, where he has nine goals and 16 points in 12 games. “Just dynamic, skilled, excellent around the net, great hand/puck skills and stuff like that. Skates well,” Futa said. More to come on Shafigullin, Samuel Fagemo and the cornucopia of European talent recently scouted by Futa, Director of Amateur Scouting Mark Yannetti, Director of European Scouting Christian Ruuttu, European amateur scouts Niklas Andersson and Jussi Jari-Koskinen and European pro scout Matjaz Kopitar. Looking forward to sharing a lot of good stuff here.

— So, Sean Walker. Doing things. Again. More on him and Doughty is below, as are a few quotes from Lizotte, whose Staples Center stall (not coincidentally) is between Jeff Carter’s and Dustin Brown’s.

Todd McLellan, on the balance between encouraging “on-your-toes” hockey and allowing dynamic players like Drew Doughty the freedom to read and make plays:
The last time I checked, he was one of the top defensemen in the league and has been for a number of years, so we don’t want to take any of his creativity away from him. We have some principles we believe in, and last night he accomplished both in that play. He slowed the game down but sped it up with a nice long pass. We got out of it what we needed it, and he used his skill set, and that’s what we want the players to do. … At the beginning of the year we told them that they needed to find their games in our structure, and that’s a prime example.

McLellan, on whether Doughty has the ability to play at a high level deep into his career:
I believe he does. I think what happens with these Hall of Fame-type players is that as they get older, they become even more dedicated to conditioning and living properly, and they just become machines. I watched Rob Blake do it, Nick Lidstrom, Dan Boyle. These types of guys, they were really good players and they were fit and everything, but as they got older, they even took it more serious. I believe Drew’s on that path and he’ll continue to train. The more you put into it, the longer you play. I firmly believe in that. He seems to be doing that since at least since I’ve been here.

McLellan, on Walker continuing to make good defensive plays against top players:
Legs, brain, confidence, feeling good about himself. Earned the right to feel that way. It doesn’t get easier for him, though. The thing that Walks will figure out as time goes on is it just gets tougher and tougher because the quality of the opponent just keeps coming and you never get to breathe when you’re in the top pair. You’ve got to play all the time, and it’s both fatiguing physically and mentally, and I think he’s handled it well so far.

McLellan, on how long it takes to become familiar with a new opposing player:
I think it takes a while, just because you’re focused on Doughty and Kopitar and Brown and the familiar names that have had an impact on the game for a long. Long time. But it doesn’t take long when you watch pre-scouts, and you go, ‘who’s 26? Who’s 26?’ That happened at the beginning of the year for our team with Lizotte. People that I know on other clubs were saying to me, ‘where did you get 46 from? Who is he?’ … And all of a sudden, you’re known and it becomes tougher because they are more aware of you.

Blake Lizotte, on sitting between Jeff Carter and Dustin Brown in the Staples Center dressing room:
Being a young guy put between two veterans, you feed off of ‘em. Every day you get a little something, little tips or tricks, so I think that probably plays a role into it.

Lizotte, on whether he still gets “goose bumps” in those types of situations:
It’s great. I go to the rink and I’m next to Dustin Brown and Jeff Carter, both 1,000-game guys. We had a good laugh yesterday. It’s a long year, you go through streaks up and down, and I was laughing with Brownie. We were talking about him possibly having a 40-goal year the year of the lockout because of the shortened season. And I was like, ‘yeah, it’s a long year, you never know. This year you could get 40.’ He goes, ‘yeah, I can turn on a dime,’ and I just had to laugh. Here, I’m telling these guys, ‘it’s a long year,’ and they’ve played 1200 games or whatever, so it’s pretty funny.

— Yotes notes. Antti Raanta, who has three shutouts in five career appearances against the Kings, will counter L.A. for the second time in a week. Michael Grabner is day-to-day. Arizona dropped a 3-1 home decision to Toronto last night in Sheldon Keefe’s first game as the Maple Leafs’ head coach. Tomorrow’s game is part of a three-in-four that continues Sunday at home against Edmonton.

Traffic advisory Saturday afternoon. Via Staples Center:

Please be advised that on Saturday, November 23rd and Sunday, November 24th there will be multiple events occurring in downtown Los Angeles which include the following:

Saturday, November 23rd
· Los Angeles Kings vs. Arizona at 1:00 p.m. at STAPLES Center
· LA Auto Show from 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m. at the Los Angeles Convention Center

Sunday, November 24th
· American Music Awards at 5:00 p.m. at Microsoft Theater
· Los Angeles Clippers vs. New Orleans at 6:00 p.m. at STAPLES Center
· LA Auto Show from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. at the Los Angeles Convention Center

Street Closures include:
· Chick Hearn Court/11th Street (same street) from Georgia Street to Figueroa Street
· Georgia Street from Chick Hearn Court to West Access Road

Please note that heavy traffic is expected in the area between 11:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. due to the multiple events taking place in and around the area. Normal routes may not be available until the streets begin to reopen, so please allow additional time when heading to downtown Los Angeles.
LOT C located off L.A. LIVE Way will not be available to purchase day of event parking on October 23rd & 24th.

All L.A. LIVE Restaurants will be open normal operating.
We ask that you please allow yourself additional time when planning a trip to STAPLES Center for all events taking place at STAPLES Center and Microsoft Theater.

— Before we get to Saturday’s HFC events, this is an important note via LA Kings Head Athletic Trainer Chris Kingsley.

And, now, via the Kings:

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Kings’ annual Hockey Fight Cancer™ Night, presented by Amgen’s Breakaway from Cancer®, takes place tomorrow, Saturday, at STAPLES Center as the Kings host the Arizona Coyotes beginning at 1 p.m.

Hockey Fights Cancer™ was founded by the NHL and NHL Players’ Association in 1998 to raise funds and awareness for all those impacted by cancer.

Below are details/highlights of all fundraising and awareness activities surrounding this special awareness night, presented by Amgen’s Breakaway from Cancer, an initiative to raise awareness about important resources available to those impacted by cancer:

· The LA Kings will fulfill the wish of Jacob Brown from Make-A-Wish Foundation to practice with the team and meet Drew Doughty. Jacob, 12, is currently battling Leukemia. He will enjoy a two-part wish experience beginning today at Toyota Sports Performance Center and ending tomorrow at STAPLES Center for the game.

· Siblings Kalea and Noah Avery will be honored as the Hero of the Game. The 7 and 5-year old sister and brother were diagnosed with Medulloblastoma two weeks apart in 2018.

· Kids impacted by cancer will participate in special Kings experiences throughout the game, including: Honorary Ice Crew, Bench Buddies, Kid DJ, Guest Announcer and more as part of the new LA Kings Kids’ Games series.

· Fans can bid on lavender warm-up worn jerseys and sticks, benefiting Amgen’s Breakaway from Cancer, exclusively available through the Kings game-night mobile auction. To view the auction, which goes live on the day of the game, visit or text the keyword KINGS to 52182.

· 50/50 Raffle Tickets proceeds will benefit Amgen’s Breakaway from Cancer.

· The Kings will donate $500 to Amgen’s Breakaway from Cancer for each goal scored at home by the Kings during the month of November. To date, the Kings have scored 15 goals at home, for a total donation of $7,500.

· Team LA will sell Hockey Fights Cancer branded merchandise to benefit Amgen’s Breakaway from Cancer independent non-profit partners.

· Kings players, coaches, staff and broadcasters will wear lavender ties, the official color of the NHL’s Hockey Fights Cancer initiative. Kings staff, Ice Crew and Bailey will also be dressed for the occasion in special lavender gear.

· Fans will be encouraged to fill in the name of a loved one and hold up their placard during Amgen’s Breakaway from Cancer placard moment. Placards will be at seats as fans arrive.

· All partner dasherboards will be made lavender to raise awareness for Hockey Fights Cancer.

· Learn more about Kings partners doing great work in cancer research and patient care by visiting their informational booths on the main concourse.

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