Practice Notebook 10/5 – “Three Groups” of players, Durzi’s Progression, alternate jersey schedule

Good Afternoon, Insiders!

Another day of practice here at Toyota Sports Performance Center as we approach Opening Night six days from today. The Kings are at the point in the process where they need to start making decisions on final roster moves. Todd McLellan described the group right now as players in one of three distinct categories, all with varying degrees of importance over the course of these next two games.

“They’re get ready and polish games,” McLellan said of the final two games during the exhibition season. “I think we have players right now that fall into three different buckets. We have guys that have had really good camps and are excelling, we probably don’t have to worry about them. We have players that have struggled lately and it’s clear they’re maybe not ready, we probably don’t have to worry about them. Thenm we have a group in the middle that is still finding their way.”

The Kings have two games remaining with which to evaluate that middle group, which can be split up really amongst themselves. McLellan pointed to the pairing of Phillip Danault and Trevor Moore as being in the group, though for reasons that are really outside of their individual control.

“Take Phil Danault’s line, they’ve only played in two games, one was in Ontario, which was an awful night under different circumstances, so they’re still trying to find their game,” McLellan said. “We’ll make sure that in these next two games, we’re trying to get ready and feel good about ourselves individually and collectively, and then go from there, but the opportunity part of it is gone for a lot of players.”

That’s not even meant as a knock on Danault and Moore, but perhaps just an indication that they may need more in terms of the next three days than others do. Danault missed a couple days early in camp with a minor injury and he and Moore did not get into an exhibition game until the third time out. The second line has played one less game than the top line and we’ll see if that means that Moore and Danault feature tomorrow evening in Utah or not, in addition to what we can expect should be close to a full roster on Saturday in Los Angeles.

That middle group also includes individuals who have not yet cemented their fates during camp, with the roster bubble still encompassing more players than there are available roster spots. Regardless of what happens performance wise for Danault and Moore, they’re established NHL talents and locks for the lineup on October 11. For others who are not roster locks, however, the next two games are important games in determining their final fate, with tomorrow’s meeting with the Golden Knights potentially the final opportunity for select individuals to prove they should be a part of the NHL group.

Durz Debut Ahead
Through five preseason games, we’ve yet to see the exhibition debut of defenseman Sean Durzi.

Coming off of shoulder surgery this past offseason, Durzi’s path back has been a steady one, though perhaps at a bit of a slower pace than we might have thought coming into training camp. Last week, he integrated back into the main group in a regular contact jersey, on a day that had him close to back to where he needed to be, but not quite ready to progress into a game. That was right around a week ago now and the Kings have competed in two preseason contests since, with Durzi not participating in either one of them.

It feels like we’re at a point, however, when that might be close to changing. Todd McLellan and his staff have seen the work being put in by Durzi and noted that those who were needed to clear him to play in a game have now done so. Initially, there was hope that Durzi could skate in 1-2 exhibition contests and with two left on the calendar, that possibility still remains intact. No guarantees that day is tomorrow in Salt Lake City, but it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility, either.

“We’re confident that he’s done the work, “McLellan said. “The people that needed to sign off on it have signed off on it. Now, it’s about getting him reps in game situations to make sure he feels comfortable and confident in his own game and the team game.”

McLellan is confident and believes it’s a good thing that Durzi is confident as well.

From the player’s point of view, he’s got that confidence level where it needs to be, which may not have been the case when he first got back with the main group. Durzi is still taking the process one day at a time, but he’s also quite optimistic moving forward.

“I’m very confident,” Durzi said. “I mean, at the end of the day, I’ve got a good team around me that will make the best decision but personally, I’m confident and feeling better than ever and I’m excited. I’m enjoying it, but at the end of the day you want to play, it’s why you do it, it’s why you compete and that feeling of competition every day is what I’m looking forward to. I’m one-hundred percent confident, feeling good, we’ll see what the future brings here.”

Durzi represents the second to last piece of the puzzle when it comes to getting into an exhibition contest. With Sean Walker already returned, and Viktor Arvidsson hopefully moving closer towards his own return to game action, Durzi is hopefully the next player to make his return.

In terms of his reintegration into contact and the main group here at camp, things have gone well. Durzi indicated it’s just nice to have his shoulder feeling better than it did last season, a point he crossed during his rehab process. Now it’s about repititions, both in practices and in games, as he takes the next step towards a full return.

“It’s been good, I’ve had a couple of good weeks and we’ve got two games coming up so we’ll see what happens there but feeling good, feeling better every day,” he added. “Like I said before, it’s just nice that it feels better than it did last season. I’m going continue to work to get my stuff in, get the reps in and feel better every day.”

Chrome Domes At Home
Lastly, the Kings have announced their schedule for the “ ’90s Era adidas Heritage Jersey ” that you affectionately know as the shiny jerseys worn with the shiny helmets.

The Kings will wear their alternates on Opening Night versus Vegas, one of eight times the team will wear the jersey and helmet combination. Six of those games will come on home ice, including the final two games of the 2022-23 regular season. The Kings will also skate in the uniform set twice on the road, once at Honda Center in Anaheim and once at Madison Square Garden in New York.

A full schedule is listed below –

• Tuesday, Oct. 11 vs. Vegas (Opening Night)
• Saturday, Oct. 29 vs. Toronto
• Friday, Feb. 17 @ Anaheim
• Saturday, Feb. 18 vs. Arizona
• Sunday, Feb. 26 @ NY Rangers
• Saturday, March 25 vs. Winnipeg
• Saturday, April 8 vs. Colorado
• Monday, April 10 vs. Vancouver

Opening Night will also entail a giveaway for all fans in attendance, with silver pompoms complementing the alternate look. A pregame fanfest will be held from 4 PM – 7 PM, with fans encouraged to be in their seats early for the 7 PM puck drop, with special, first game of the season festivities included. Expecting a few changes to the in-arena experience this season, with much of that to be rolled out against Vegas in six days time.

Morning skate to follow tomorrow morning before it’s off to Utah for Frozen Fury. Kings and Golden Knights tomorrow evening from Salt Lake City, the penultimate game of the 2022 preseason.

Photo by Rob Curtis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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