Was today the first day of practice, or the final day of training camp.
I could be convinced either way and best reasoning earns you an exclusive opportunity to earn $88 per hour, working from the comforts of your own home!
Depending on which perspective you take, today is either the last day of training camp or the first day of practice for the 2021-22 LA Kings. The Kings made two roster moves earlier today, with forward Austin Wagner and defenseman Austin Strand clearing waivers and being assigned to the AHL’s Ontario Reign.
That left the Kings with 13 forwards, eight defensemen and two goaltenders on the ice today, which brings the organization down to the required total of 23, just not necessarily in the way that we all had it broken down. First things first, here’s how the Kings lined up this morning –
Arvidsson – Kopitar – Brown
Iafallo – Danault – Kempe
Tkachev – Vilardi – Kaliyev
Lemieux – Lizotte – Moore
Anderson – Doughty
Bjornfot – Roy
Edler – Walker
Maatta – Wolanin
Quick / Petersen
When factoring in injured players, the Kings are actually at 26 players, rather than that magic number of 23, but three players remain “up in the air”. That group at this point consists of Lias Andersson, Andreas Athanasiou and Olli Maatta, all of whom are in varying degrees of recovery after suffering injuries during the preseason.
Maatta has now logged three practices with the full group, as he works his way back into contention from an injury he suffered in Vegas back on October 1. Athanasiou has not skated with the full group since he suffered an upper-body injury in the opening days of training camp. Andersson was labeled as a “lower-body injury” during Saturday’s preseason finale against Anaheim and did not return after the early second period.
“Lias obviously didn’t skate today, so he’s not healthy, but we’re hoping that he’ll be ready to go on Thursday,” McLellan said. “He’s day-to-day.”
The Andersson injury complicates matters a bit, because he was penciled into a spot on the third line with Gabriel Vilardi and Vladimir Tkachev, with that unit having a productive preseason. Andersson has put the work in, to factor himself into a spot in the team’s top nine, so his absence is a bummer both for the Kings and for the team.
As McLellan has said though, one man’s injury is another man’s opportunity. Today, that opportunity fell to Arthur Kaliyev, who skated in Andersson’s spot, to the delight of #LAKingsTwitter. More on Kaliyev to come later this week, once things become officially official.
Tkachev – Vilardi – Kaliyev skating together this morning for the @LAKings 👀
— Zach Dooley (@DooleyLAK) October 11, 2021
Pace, Tempo, Execute.
Those were the words that Todd McLellan used today to describe his practice, and what he wanted to see out of it.
For the first time since March 2020, the Kings had a practice that their head coach would describe as an “NHL practice”. No longer was there a taxi squad on the ice, no longer was there a need to work six lines or five pairs into the rotation. It was an NHL number of players, and that was well-received.
“It hasn’t felt like this since March of two years ago, I don’t even know what year it is. If you think about last year, we had a taxi squad, we had extra players all over the place, different colors. Today was an NHL practice. It was four lines, an extra, a lot of the times you don’t get the chance to have eight defensemen but we did today, two goalies. Pace, tempo, execution, that was good for us, we needed it.”
McLellan put little stock into the line combinations today, noting that the primary focus in practice was getting the pace up and getting the legs going, in the first of three skates this week heading into the season.
“Frankly, today we weren’t really worried about the lines,” he said. “We needed pace, we needed to play at tempo, we needed to execute. That whole practice was designed not to think, but to execute, to get going fast. We could have put the lines in a blender and torn them up.”
Today’s focus was less on the X’s and O’s, and more on establishing the buzzwords of pace and tempo. Get the boys moving, with more targeted things to come over the next few days.
McLellan talked the other day about the slow start to the game against Anaheim and gave partial attribution to the fact that the Kings haven’t had a consistent set of practices to get back into their routine. He said that there is some stock put into the slow starts during the preseason but at the same time, it’s important to focus on the external factors that may have caused it, as detailed below.
“I think we have to put some stock into it, I don’t think we can discount it completely, but it does affect the group when different guys are coming in and out, the fatigue factor,” he said. “We played some games when we had good starts, we had some others where we weren’t very good. I’d like to think that we can get out of the gate quickly once we establish some rhythm in the lineups and the playing, balance minutes out to where guys should be. It’ll take a little while for all that to happen, for all the teams in the league, not just us, but we’ll get there eventually.”
AI, All In
We also had the chance to speak with Alex Iafallo this morning, fresh off of his modeling campaign with the LA Kings for the team’s new alternate jersey.
Before we touch on the boring items like his feel with the team’s new-look second line, and the intangibles that his new center, Phillip Danault, brings to the team, we get his take on the team’s new threads.
“I love them, it’s pretty sweet,” he said this morning. “The retro [feel], that logo alone is really cool and everyone is going to be really excited about that. I know that when I first put it on, it felt special and I’m very excited to wear it for the fans and get out there.”
Now, onto that other stuff……
Iafallo has skated with forwards Danault and Adrian Kempe on a line throughout the majority of training camp, forming the team’s new-look second line. The line was perhaps the best for the Kings in the first period on Saturday evening, and throughout the game they controlled more than 80 percent of shot attempts, conceding just two as a line during the entire game.
The trio has the potential to be a possession monster, with three traditionally strong players when it comes to shot attempts for and against. Iafallo has been pleased with the two-way machine so far.
“Playing with them I feel like we’re going up and down, flying, especially on the forecheck,” he said. “I feel like we’re getting a lot more pucks in, especially as the games go on. Having those guys play in every zone is definitely going to help us and help our line. It’s been really fun playing with them.”
Looking more specifically at Danault, while his boxscore statistics figure to be pretty solid in their own right, he brings so many little things to the table that go beyond the recorded statistics.
The offseason acquisition is well-regarded for his two-way acumen, but it can sometimes be hard to put into words certain things that players like that do well to be effective. Iafallo touched on Danault’s “support” whether it be on the hunt, or in the defensive zone, as being an area he really excels in.
“He’s got a lot of really good support, and he’s got a good brain on him,” Iafallo said of his centerman. “You can see that all over the ice. He’s good at taking faceoffs and he communicates well, which is good. Small things like that, that people don’t notice, go a long way. Especially that support that he has, whether we’re forechecking, he’s always in the right spot, or it’s just to give a little chip, he’s always talking, so it helps.”
Watch the full interview with Iafallo below!
Tons of content to come here on LAKI throughout the week, including a look at the opening-night roster, a feature on Kaliyev and his progression during training camp, and a look at the team’s expectations going into game number one.