Practice 4/5 – Partial Team Skate + Return Updates, Kempe’s Milestone, Kupari on growth/impact

Good afternoon, Insiders!

To those who were out at Arena last night, it was great to meet many of you! A close game for sure, though one I think we all hoped went the other way. I am hopeful everyone had a great time regardless, and hopeful to bring the event back next season for sure!

As far as today is concerned, as Todd McLellan alluded to in yesterday’s post-game press conference, the Kings were slated to skate today, but not in full. Several of the team’s higher-minute players were not on the ice this morning, while those on the lower-minute end were, along with yesterday’s scratches and some recovering and returning from injury.

With that being said, my count had eight forwards, six defensemen and two goaltenders in action today…..assuming my count is correct, that is.

Gray: Byfield, Kupari, Vilardi
White: Andersson, Brown, Grundstrom, Kaliyev, Lemieux
Defensemen: Bjornfot, Moverare, Roy, Spence, Stecher, Strand
Goaltenders: Petersen, Quick

The expectation is that the full group will be on the ice tomorrow, with eyes on the Edmonton game on Thursday.

Injury Update
Here’s where we’re at, Insiders.

The trio of Dustin Brown, Brendan Lemieux and Matt Roy skated with the full group again today, the second straight day they’ve joined the full group in regular contact jerseys. Those players, naturally, appear closest to a return. The next in line group appears to be Mikey Anderson and Andreas Athanasiou, but neither have rejoined the full group at this time.

“There’s players that are starting to skate with us again, and that is a really good sign,” Todd McLellan said. “We’re close with some, we’re still a long way with others. We’ll see where we are later in the week, we’ll have the opportunity to get a good practice in and that may help some prepare.”

We haven’t seen Blake Lizotte with the full group since he suffered an injury against Seattle on March 26, while Drew Doughty has remained in and out of practice, but was not on with the group today.

While those players are clumped into groups, speaking with McLellan yesterday, he believes that the timelines currently in place will see guys come back individually, as opposed to all at once. From his experience in these types of situations, that’s how he’d prefer to do it, if possible.

“One of the most dangerous things that can happen, at least based on my experience, is bringing everybody back together at the same time, trying to tune the band up all at the same time,” he said. “Based on the progression of injured players and scheduled returns, I’m not sure we’ll have to do that. We’ll see one at a time, slowly coming in, maybe two back in the lineup, but with practice time.”

That then brings up the natural follow-up question – What about those who have filled in, and in many cases, filled in admirably?

McLellan explained that if certain players are healthy – aka guys like Viktor Arvidsson when he came back, or Drew Doughty – they’re going to play as soon as they can go. That’s their level of importance. Others certainly fall into that category as well and those players have earned their spots in the lineup when they are healthy. The question becomes, when you have say an individual on the fence, or maybe one on each side, how does that play out?

McLellan’s advice to the younger players hungry to keep their spots is to simply keep doing what they’re doing.

“Just keep doing what you’re doing and if you’re playing well, keep playing,” he said. “We may have already made decisions to keep younger players in the lineup. If they’ve performed well, maybe they’ve already won the opportunity to stay in the lineup. Keep doing what you’re doing, that’s all we can really give them or tell them, and all of them have come up and done a tremendous job.”

Dirty Thirty

Adrian Kempe became just the fourth different member of the LA Kings to net 30 or more goals in a season since the 2009-10 campaign.

Anze Kopitar – 35, 2017-18
Anze Kopitar – 34, 2009-10
Jeff Carter – 32, 2016-17
*Adrian Kempe – 31, 2021-22
Tyler Toffoli – 31, 2015-16

With 31 goals and counting, Kempe is well on his way to reaching Kopitar’s tally from the 2017-18 campaign, a career-best 35 tallies for the Slovenian. No player in a Kings sweater has surpassed 35 goals since the 2004-05 lockout (Zigmund Palffy – 37, 2002-03) with Kempe currently on pace to finish at either 35 or 36, depending on which direction you swing the decimal point.

“I mean, yeah it’s a good milestone to have, I try not to think too much about it and just keep playing like I’ve been playing,” Kempe said of the mark. “Just driving the net, keep shooting as much as I can.”

All simply projections, though. That would give the 25-year-old winger four or five more goals over his last 10 games this season. Kempe has shown flashes of dropping that many in four to five games, let alone ten games, but also, especially in past years, gone dry for that length of time as well. For a player who has always flashed the talent and ability to produce offensively at this level, and a player who was drafted to become an impact player at this level, seeing Kempe hit 30 goals is a great feat.

We’ve seen this level from him in spurts over the past couple of seasons, but never for the length of time, and the consistency, we’ve seen here this year. The proof has been in the pudding with the goals.

“He’s been a streaky player throughout his career, we’ve all talked about that before,” McLellan said. “His issues were that the streaks, or the dry spells had gone really lone. This year, he had one somewhat lengthy one, but he’s been pretty consistent. His physicality, his pace, his shot are showing up night after night. We haven’t had a 30-goal scorer here since I don’t know when and he’s there now. It’s progress for our organization, it really is.”

Even on nights where he hasn’t scored, Kempe’s skating, physicality and offensive skills have typically been on display. He’s used his tools and talents to backcheck effectively, playing well in all three zones and displaying a maturity to his game that has helped him to become as effective as he has been. Good signs all around for number nine.

Kupari Keeps Coming
It’s been a whirlwind season for several of the younger players on the Kings this season, with forward Rasmus Kupari firmly in that boat.

Assigned to the AHL out of training camp, Kupari quickly found himself back in the NHL picture in the early goings, earning a spot with others out due to COVID Protocols or injury. Kupari retained his spot in the lineup until the dog days of winter, but found himself back in the AHL for a stretch of games.

With another chance now with the Kings, Kupari has been noticeable. He’s rarely had a vanilla game, showcasing his rare combination of size and speed, becoming a driving force on a youthful, but contributing third line. As he’s gone on here in his second NHL stint of the season, Kupari has become a factor on a penalty kill that has given up just one goal over its last eight games. He’s earned the trust to factor into more situations, with more ice time, and he’s feeling it for sure.

“Yeah, that’s been huge,” he said today. “I’ve gotten some penalty kill time, that shows their trust in me and that keeps the rhythm going. I’ve tried to add some physicality to my game, finish my checks every time I get the chance. Just be solid all over the ice, especially in the d-zone.”

Kupari was at the NHL level in the closing stages of each of the last two years. Last year, it was winding down a season that was disappointing from a team perspective, but important for players like Kupari to get their feet wet in NHL action, both with the team still in the mix during his debut, and at the end, with things just coming to a close.

Now, however, it’s a very different playing field.

“Last year, I got my first games and it’s a different scenario than it is now,” he said now. “We’re in it. We know the systems, we know where we are now. I’ve gotten some good minutes lately, I can see the trust in me more and more, making smart plays and play for the team.”

Todd McLellan has talked at length about the importance of these types of games for the Kings to be playing in. No better learning experience than those being learned right now for young players like Kupari.

Full day of practice is expected tomorrow, with reports to follow here on LAKI!

Rules for Blog Commenting

  • No profanity, slurs or other offensive language. Replacing letters with symbols does not turn expletives into non-expletives.
  • Personal attacks against other blog commenters, and/or blatant attempts to antagonize other comments, are not tolerated. Respectful disagreement is encouraged. Posts that continually express the same singular opinion will be deleted.
  • Comments that incite political, religious or similar debates will be deleted.
  • Please do not discuss, or post links to websites that illegally stream NHL games.
  • Posting under multiple user names is not allowed. Do not type in all caps. All violations are subject to comment deletion and/or banning of commenters, per the discretion of the blog administrator.

Repeated violations of the blog rules will result in site bans, commensurate with the nature and number of offenses.

Please flag any comments that violate the site rules for moderation. For immediate problems regarding problematic posts, please email