4/27 Preview – Lineup Changes Expected + Clinch Reactions, Anderson Activated, Spence Honored

WHO: x – Los Angeles Kings (43-27-10) @ Seattle Kraken (26-47-6)
WHAT: NHL REGULAR-SEASON GAME
WHEN: Wednesday, April 27 @ 7:00 PM Pacific
WHERE: Climate Pledge Arena – Seattle, WA
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: Bally Sports West – AUDIO – iHeart Radio – TWITTER: @DooleyLAK & @LAKings

TONIGHT’S MATCHUP: With a playoff spot now in their pocket, the LA Kings hit the ice tonight for their penultimate regular-season game, with the final meeting of the season against the Seattle Kraken.

HEAD-TO-HEAD: The Kings are 2-1-0 this season versus Seattle, including a 3-1 victory here in Washington State earlier this year. Forward Adrian Kempe leads all Los Angeles skaters against the Kraken this season with four points (1-3-4), while forward Phillip Danault has two goals from three games played.

KINGS VITALS: The Kings conclude their regular-season schedule over the next 48 hours, as they visit Seattle to begin a back-to-back set in the Pacific Northwest. The Kings will take on the Kraken this evening, followed by the Vancouver Canucks tomorrow evening, to finish out their scheduled 82 games.

Considering the back-to-back set and the playoff clinch, expect to see the Kings split their goaltenders this week against Vancouver and Seattle. Goaltender Jonathan Quick was not on the ice this morning, making him tonight’s expected starter in Seattle, his seventh consecutive nod. Quick has never faced the Kraken in his professional career, with Cal Petersen playing the first three matchups.

Following full-team practices on Monday and Tuesday, the Kings held an optional team skate today in Seattle.

With two games in 24 hours, and eight extra players available at their disposal, the Kings have a plethora of options when selecting a lineup over their final two regular-season games. Per Todd McLellan, the Kings are expected to make several lineup changes over the next two games. More on his thoughts there below.

For reference, here’s how the Kings lined up last time out, though expect to see many of the players who featured against Anaheim not in action tonight –

KRAKEN VITALS: Seattle has lost its last three games entering tonight’s action, including a 5-2 defeat yesterday evening in Vancouver. Tonight is Seattle’s second-to-last home game of its inaugural season.

Without a morning skate, no reports on who will be in net tonight for Seattle, which currently has three goaltenders on the roster. Joey Daccord got the nod last night in Vancouver, so that likely narrows the focus down to Chris Dreidger and Philipp Grubauer. Dreidger has started two of the previous three games versus the Kings, with a 1-1-0 record, a .948 save percentage and a 1.52 goals-against average. Grubauer started the other game and made 23 saves on 27 shots in a losing effort.

Per the Scott Malone of Root Sports Northwest, here’s how the Kraken lined up last time out versus the Canucks –

Forward Kole Lind and defenseman Vince Dunn are both battling upper-body injuries and missed last game. The only player on injured reserve for Seattle is forward Brandon Tanev, who is out for the season.

Notes –

Reactions To The Clinch
Yesterday’s Dallas win over Vegas saw the Kings secure their spot in the 2022 postseason.

Being in Seattle during a Mariners game and attempting to watch a game not of importance to many beyond the Kings traveling party proved to be problematic for the coaching staff, as Todd McLellan joked about this morning.

“They weren’t too keen on changing it, obviously a pretty good baseball city here,” he said with a laugh. “We were excited, I didn’t watch with the players obviously, I watched with the staff and some of the management, but we were all excited.”

Speaking with Phillip Danault this morning, he noted that the players watched the third period, as well as a very lengthy shootout, and were naturally excited by the result of the game.

“We watched the third period….and all of the shootouts, we were all excited, but at the same time, we were ready for today,” he said. “Our destiny was in our hands, but it was definitely special and obviously you want to clinch as early as possible. Good game from both teams.”

Danault also talked about what the clinch means to him and to the players in the room, and the first word he used was pride.

Pride in what the team has accomplished, pride in how the Kings came together as a group and pride in what they have achieved. While they are not content with just making the playoffs, it was the first goal at the beginning of the season. Can’t win anything until you get in and the Kings are proud of how they’ve reached that goal.

“Pride, I think that’s the feeling right now, we’re proud of what we’ve accomplished so far, but not satisfied,” Danault said. “A lot of grinding this year, we didn’t know what to expect at the beginning of the year, but we stuck with the system and we played well, we played our game, trusted each other and believed in ourselves. Here we are today, clinched for the playoffs.”

McLellan spoke about the journey back to that point, a journey that began even before he even joined the organization.

The journey was never an easy one but what he felt has always been evident was the team’s commitment to the plan that was set into action. Even though the first few years of that plan were painful to endure, form the top down, those who committed, committed for the long haul. The next step, and a very rewarding one, was taken last night.

“It’s been a long time coming,” he said. “I wasn’t here for the beginning of the journey, but from when I got on the bus until now, there have been ups and downs, but the plan has been really clear and the commitment to the plan has been strong. Nobody has waverd from it and that includes everybody from management to the coaching staff and in particular the players. They knew what they signed up for when it started. It wasn’t always easy, but the four remaining Stanley Cup champs have committed to it and stuck to it. Then, everybody else along the way, found a way to contribute to get back here. It was by no means easy and we’d like to think we have a lot of miles left in that journey.”

More reactions to the clinch to follow in the coming days, as we hear from more players on the subject.

Lineup Changes
Expect to see a different group on the ice today than you did on Saturday against Anaheim.

Todd McLellan confirmed that the Kings are set to make several lineup changes this evening in Seattle after the team clinched a playoff spot while idle last night.

“That will happen tonight and it will happen tomorrow,” McLellan said. “You’ll see a number of changes to the lineup, not excited about playing some of our guys back-to-back games, especially ones with a lot of miles on them. The group will be ready for the playoffs, everyone will get what they need.”

One such player figures to be Mikey Anderson, who was activated from long-term injured reserve earlier in the day. Anderson has been sidelined since March 7 in Boston, when he suffered an upper-body injury and did not return to that game.

Anderson was a staple of the first pairing alongside the also injured Drew Doughty for most of the season. Over the last week or so, we’ve seen Anderson move towards being a full participant during practices, with the team noting his progress along the way. With the Kings not dependant on a result tonight, the game against the Kraken is now a lower-pressure opportunity to work Anderson back into the lineup and gauge exactly where he’s at in advance of the postseason.

On top of Anderson, the Kings had seven additional skaters available on Saturday with the expectation that several of those players could check in tonight and tomorrow in some capacity. How they shake out exactly remains to be seen, without full lines during today’s morning skate, but we can certainly expect to see some new faces with a point to prove.

“There will be some players that haven’t had the opportunity to push their way into the lineup, they get the chance to do that today and tomorrow and that can happen,” McLellan added. “We talked about that as well, push your way into the lineup. Just because there might not be some regular faces on the bench with you, that’s actually an opportunity for you and take advantage of it. We’ll be evaluating tonight and we’ll be evaluating tomorrow and then making some decisions for Game 1. Your play can influence that one way or the other.”

While the Kings seemed to find combinations that worked over the last couple of weeks, Edmonton is a unique opponent presenting unique challenges. Six periods of time for an individual to state their case as to why they should factor into Game 1.

Spence AHL Rookie
Kings defenseman Jordan Spence was honored today by the American Hockey League for his success as a first-year player. Spence was one of six players named to the AHL’s All-Rookie Team today, the first Reign player to be selected since Tyler Toffoli back in 2013.

From the team’s official release –

“Spence, a former fourth-round pick by the LA Kings in the 2019 NHL Draft, has been the top-scoring rookie defenseman in the AHL this season, collecting 42 points (four goals, 38 assists) in 46 games with Ontario. He is the first All-Rookie honoree in the history of the Reign and the first Kings draft selection to be recognized since Tyler Toffoli during the 2012-13 campaign.

26 of Spence’s points came on the Reign’s league-leading power play, and the blueliner also accumulated a plus-18 rating that is tied for the highest among all Ontario skaters. Spence, 21, made his NHL debut with the Kings on Mar. 10, becoming the first Australian-born player to play in the NHL. In 22 NHL games with LA, he has totaled two goals and six assists.”

Also included in the team is former LA Jr. King and California native Dustin Wolf, who spent his first professional season with AHL-Stockton in the Calgary organization.

Spence is eligible to return to the AHL for postseason play, but he’s earned his spot in the everyday NHL lineup at this time and isn’t going back until a potential situation when the Reign are still in the postseason but the Kings are not. Still, with 42 points from 46 games played at that level, it was a great recognition of his strong season.

Kings and Kraken, tonight at 7 PM on Bally Sports West. Win, Lose or Draw, we’re playing past game 82!

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