Two Weeks In, Gavrikov & Korpisalo Endearing Themselves To Kings Teammates, Coaches

On two different levels, today marks an anniversary of sorts for defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov and goaltender Joonas Korpisalo.

First and foremost, it marks two weeks since they were traded from Columbus to Los Angeles. Both players were a part of the biggest move the Kings made in advance of the NHL’s Trade Deadline and both players have slotted in seamlessly since joining the organization.

Secondly, it marks the day before they’ll face their former teammates for the first time.

More on the second to follow, but let’s focus here on the first. Gavrikov and Korpisalo are, so far, excellent additions to the Kings group. That applies to on the ice, sure, but off the ice as well. Both have fit in quite well through their first six games and two weeks with the organization since the trade. Effective players on the ice and good dudes off of it.

Speaking with five senior members of the organization, their new teammates were quick to agree.

Viktor Arvidsson – Oh they’ve been great, they’re competitors and they come in with a lot of experience too. I think that’s great for our young core of guys in the room and it’s good to have more veterans come in and help you.

Phillip Danault – Really good. They’re really good off the ice and obviously great people, both of them. On the ice, they both bring hockey sense and have big strengths they bring for our team. It’s huge for us.

Drew Doughty – They both fit in really well. They’re both great guys, both funny guys, I’ve hung out with them quite a bit, actually, since they’ve been here and they fit in with no problem.

Anze Kopitar – Yeah, absolutely. I mean, obviously, they’ve both been great, and Zack too, all three great characters to fit right in, into our locker room. That’s a really good thing for us.

Trevor Moore – They’re great, two good personalities for our room. They just go about their business every day and then as far as gameplay, I think you can see it out there. They’re both super important to our group and we’re lucky to have them.

Doughty added that he’s already trying to convince Gavrikov to re-sign with the Kings, highlighting his strengths such as an active defensive stick and a sense of when to step up in the neutral zone. A terrific fit for the system that LA runs, in Doughty’s opinion, so he’s playing the part of convincer. Not a bad guy to have said those things six games in.

So far, the feeling has been returned by Gavrikov and Korpisalo.

They’ve said it since they got here, but both players have felt so welcomed by the organization. Starting with the players in the room and transitioning into the coaches, the support staff and those who have embraced their families, both players have spoken highly of how they’ve been able to come in seamlessly and fit right in.

Gavrikov – It’s been good, the guys have helped me out tremendously, the organization gave us such a warm welcome, it was perfect and it made things easier. Like I said, the guys and the organization made it so easy on us, there’s not much more you could have wished for.”

Korpisalo – I feel pretty good and the guys have done a heck of a job for me. The team did a heck of a job with bringing everyone in.

As far as the impression they’ve made on the coaching staff, it’s been a good one.

Gavrikov has worked himself onto a defensive pairing with Matt Roy, which has served as one of the NHL’s top defensive units since assembled. Since Gavirkov joined the Kings, 67 different defensive pairings have skated 50 or more minutes together. None has a higher expected goals total, per Natural Stat Trick, than the Gavrikov / Roy duo. Gavrikov is over 60 percent in just about every puck possession metric and has been on the ice for seven goals compared to just one against. The sample size is obviously quite small, but it’s been so far so good. He’s also been pretty productive offensively, with four points (1-3-4) from six games played. Todd McLellan spoke about the offensive side of his game, knowing those instincts were there and now seeing them applied within the Kings’ system.

“I didn’t know he would be that aggressive, but I think after game one or two I mentioned that saw some offensive instincts that we thought were there but we’re seeing them on a regular basis,” McLellan said. “We were just talking about it in the coaches room, when he does go, he goes at the right time and he’s aware of what’s behind him, so he’s not leaving something vacant. He goes at the right time, somebody’s covering and he can come down on a puck versus chasing it back.”

With regards to Korpisalo, the word of the day was calm. Pheonix Copley had taken on the lion’s share of the work over the last two months and he did an admirable job in doing so. With Korpisalo in the fold, the pair has formed a stout tandem, with similar styles of play. Since Korpisalo joined the Kings, no more than two goals have been allowed on a single night, with Copley and Korpisalo combining to allow 1.8 goals per start this month. A calming presence, with veteran experience and results-oriented performance. Not too shabby.

“He’s calm, not a lot of garbage or secondary stuff in and around, he makes a good first save and then the whistle goes, we believe in the centers that we have for faceoffs so we’re okay with that,” McLellan said. “There’s a calmness to him, he’s a veteran, ‘I’ve been here before let me do my job’ and I think it rubs off on the players. The players have played well around our goaltenders, again I go to the numbers, what are they, 2-2-2-2-1-2 [goals against]? That’s a pretty good defensive commitment by everybody.”

As we approach tomorrow, the second part of the anniversary comes into play.

Since Gavrikov joined the Columbus organization in the 2019 postseason, no player has skated in more games as a Blue Jacket. Korpisalo is fourth all-time in Columbus history in games played by a goaltender and third in wins. He also ranks second in most playoff categories. It’s sure to be an emotional night for both players, though Korpisalo is likely to serve as the backup goaltender, as they see their former teammates for the first time since the trade.

More from both players to follow in the morning, in the game preview before the Columbus tilt.

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