Practice 12/26: We’re Back! Doughty activated, Turcotte to taxi, Brown/Maatta & staff to protocol + McLellan quotes

We’re Back, Insiders!

The Kings hit the ice today at 2 PM for their first practice back after the NHL’s Holiday Break. Today was the first time the team was together on the ice since December 19, when the Kings defeated Washington at Capital One Arena, and for the first time for a practice session since Wednesday, December 15 at FLA Live Arena in Sunrise, Florida.

For starters, here are the roster moves the Kings announced prior to practice today –

– Forward Alex Turcotte has been reassigned to the taxi squad from the Ontario Reign (AHL).
– Defenseman Drew Doughty has been activated from the non-roster/COVID-19 list.
– Forward Dustin Brown and defenseman Olli Maatta have been placed into the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol.

Oh yeah, taxi squads are back……so nice of the NHL to release that information today! Allow CapFriendly to break down the new-look taxi squads below.

When you factor in the above moves, today’s skate saw the Kings at exactly the number of individuals needed to field a full roster, with 12 forwards, six defensemen and two goaltenders, albeit with one not yet on the active roster. Both Doughty and Turcotte were involved in today’s practice, while Brown and Maatta naturally were not.

For what it’s worth, and this is a day-by-day situation at this point, here’s how the Kings lined up during practice today –

Iafallo – Kopitar – Kempe
Moore – Turcotte – Arvidsson
Lemieux – Lizotte – Kaliyev
Andersson – Kupari – Grundstrom

Anderson – Doughty
Wolanin – Roy
Bjornfot – Durzi

Quick / Sparks

COVID Protocol – Brown, Byfield, Danault, Maatta, Petersen
Injured – Athanasiou
Injured Reserve – Edler, Walker

McLellan confirmed that the trio of Byfield, Danault and Petersen, who are all on various timelines, would not be cleared and ready for Tuesday’s game against Vegas, though Thursday against Vancouver could be a possibility for the latter two.

He also relayed that there’s a “good chance” we’d see the above combinations in action on Tuesday against Vegas, assuming the roster remains as is and the game goes on as scheduled.

Additionally, McLellan noted that assistant coaches Marco Sturm and Trent Yawney are also in protocol, along with some members of the team’s training staff. On the ice today was McLellan, along with goaltending coach Bill Ranford and assistant video coach Derik Johnson, who has playing experience at the AHL, ECHL and NCAA Division 1 levels.

McLellan said that while Sturm and Yawney are out, Ontario Reign assistant coach Chris Hajt could see time behind the bench, noting that he is comfortable with a “two-man bench”. McLellan also highlighted the work that video coach Samson Lee and Johnson do behind the scenes, adding that either could fit right in behind the bench. With still one more day of practice between now and Wednesday’s scheduled game, we’ll see how things progress.

McLellan spoke on a variety of different topics following today’s skate –

On getting the group back together for a skate for the first time in a week
Today was a strange day. By the time we got on the ice, all the apprehension was somewhat gone, who was going to make it and who wasn’t. It was an eerie feeling. Once we got out there, it turned to how are the legs, the lungs and the timing feeling and that was ugly for awhile, it’s been a week since we’ve actually been on the ice. Travel, Christmas, everything else that goes into that. It was some tough slugging today, we’ll get a better one in tomorrow and then be ready to go on Tuesday.

On what players have been working on when away from the facility over the past week
Yeah, our strength and conditioning department has programs that are geared towards each of the individuals. It’s not just mass production, take this and do it, they all have their own programs for situations like this, and they were each given a “do at home” type program, body weight. We expected them to participate and do the things they needed to do, so they were feeling good when they came back, and for the most part, I think most of them did do it.

On the balance between getting the team back into the flow and preparing for Vegas on Tuesday
Nothing to do with Vegas today, it was all about us. It was a lot of long skating, not a lot of battling, though it felt like they were. We were cognizant of their groins, their hip flexors, which are usually the first to go when somebody hasn’t worked real hard for a long period. We tried to keep that in mind with the drill selections, we tried to keep the practice non-stop, so that the heartrates got up, there was a considerable amount of sweat. Tomorrow, we’ll get a little bit more detail and get back to our game.

On what he wants to see, and has seen, from Alex Turcotte this season
We want to see growth. We know where he was coming out of training camp, which was close to being a full-time NHL’er. He’s gone to the American League now, and of course their season is disrupted somewhat and he’s fought through some injuries, but when he’s been able to play, his game’s been a very consistent, two-way game. He’s a player that is an energy type player, he’s involved in everything. He strips a lot of pucks, creates turnovers for his teammates and we’ll be looking for that. How is he defensively, is he able to read things quicker and close things quicker, but by all indications, through Chris Hajt, his play there has been deserving of his recall at this point.

On if he feels the break kills any momentum from the 5-2-1 run before it
I don’t the answer to that, to tell you the truth. We’ve been off for a week, we skated today and it looked like we’ve been off for a week. Rusty, lethargic a little bit, but nothing that we didn’t expect as a coaching staff. What does that do for our momentum moving forward? I think each event is it’s own entity, so we’ll have to reestablish that momentum, the details and the game that we’ve been playing with once those games begin, and it looks like that will be Tuesday. We’d like to continue on, but it doesn’t just magically happen on its own. We’ll have to continue to work and get the most out of what we have in the lineup.

On his thoughts on keeping the league moving forward during these times
I think the league, as an organization, as a whole, is doing what it thinks it needs to do. One, to protect the paticipants, the players, the coaches, the trainers, anybody that is involved with the teams, but also the fans. To make it the best situation possible for them, both as far as entertainment value and health. They’re doing everything they can. Just from a personal perspective, we’ve got more going on in our league, and I don’t mean COVID cases, than other leagues do, as far as cross-border travel and regulations that are outside ours, or the NHL’s, control. Obviously with the Toronto Raptors, there’s some crossover there, but we have seven teams that are on the other side of the border and that makes it difficult with protocols that are put in place, that trump anything the National Hockey League does. I’m sure everybody’s thinking about that, but we all have opinions on why we’re doing things and why we’re not doing things, that’s what our world’s been like for the last two years and I don’t see that changing at all. I think we’re in real good hands, we’ll continue to be in good hands and we’ll just react.

The Kings are scheduled to return to their usual 11 AM timeslot tomorrow morning as they continue to prepare for what is their next scheduled game on Tuesday at home against Vegas. One day at a time, Insiders!

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