Practice 3/24 – Today’s Skate + McLellan on Injured Players, The Goalie Union, 1 PM Start

Back at it, Insiders!

The Kings hit the ice this morning for their final skate before a back-to-back set this weekend. The Kings have a few franchise records on the line here in games versus Winnipeg and St. Louis, but more on that in tomorrow’s game preview.

For today, it marks the end of the final extended break of the season until what would be the playoffs. The Kings had off days on Tuesday and Thursday to “recharge the batteries” as Todd McLellan put it. That meant a high-intensity practice on Wednesday and another good skate here today. With the 1 PM puck drop tomorrow afternoon versus the Jets, the Kings will not have the opportunity to hold a morning skate, meaning today’s practice is the final tune-up prior to hosting Winnipeg.

The Kings had a large group on hand for this morning’s practice, which was (loosely) aligned as follows in certain drills –

Byfield – Kopitar – Kempe
Moore – Danault – Arvidsson
Iafallo – Lizotte – Vilardi
Grundstrom – Kupari – MacEwen
Fiala – Anderson-Dolan – Kaliyev

Anderson – Doughty
Gavrikov – Roy
Edler – Walker
Durzi – Spence

Copley / Korpisalo

More on those who re-joined the crew today and how that could potentially impact the lineup moving forward.

Notes –
Good To See You
Good to see the gang back together.

The Kings had all three individuals who are currently injured on the ice with the full group today. Sean Durzi and Gabe Vilardi skated in full-contact jerseys, while Kevin Fiala was on in a non-contact red jersey. Today is Durzi’s second practice back with the full team, while it’s the first for Fiala and Vilardi, who have skated independently in the days preceding. A good push back towards full health.

“Really good to have everybody out there,” McLellan said. “Are they all options, I’m not sure yet, I have to get some type of feedback from our training staff. The one negative is that we’ve got a lot of players around right now and it makes practice a little bit awkward, but that’s okay. We have options to pick from a number of players when we’re healthy. Unfortunately, the ones that don’t get picked, it’s hard on them, because they see how healthy we are, knock on wood, when we get there. It may push them deeper, it might not, I don’t know, but it’s a fact.”

With regards to the games this weekend, the colors of jerseys tell us that Durzi and Vilardi are closer than Fiala is. Vilardi is “an option” for tomorrow, per McLellan, and he skated with his regular line today alongside Lizotte and Iafallo, plus he was “out” the shortest……he didn’t even miss a game, so was he out at all? It certainly feels like longer with the break between the win over Calgary and tomorrow’s game.

Durzi feels close as well, as he’s now skated twice with the full group. Fiala is still in red but has progressed from individual sessions to the full group today, with McLellan complimentary of what he saw from number 22.

“He enjoyed himself, he looked comfortable, not awkward at all, his conditioning was pretty good,” McLellan said of Fiala. “All positive signs.”

The Kings won’t practice again as a group until Wednesday in Edmonton, with three games between now and then. For those who don’t play tomorrow, we’ll assume they’ll get additional work between now and then, but the next practice day won’t be until five days from now. Will see how things shake out for all three players, starting against Winnipeg tomorrow.

Goaltending Breakdown
If it aint broke, don’t fix it.

For now, at least. This month, the Kings have opted to trade starts between goaltenders Pheonix Copley and Joonas Korpisalo. It’s hard to argue with the results at the moment. The Kings have not lost in regulation since Korpisalo joined the organization at the beginning of the month. In that span, no team has posted a better team save percentage than the Kings, with Copley and Korpisalo combining for a mark of .928 at all strengths, per Natural Stat Trick.

The results on the ice have been apparent and can be easily counted through the numbers. Todd McLellan spoke about how both goaltenders have bought in to what the situation is right now and that buy-in goes for both practices and games. As both men up their level in all situations, it’s led to better numbers in games and better performances during practice.

“The alternating goaltender thing, it’s just a tomorrow thing, it may change, but when you watch them both in practice, they’re both practicing hard,” McLellan said. “They’re both on their toes, they’re both ready to play when called upon and it does two things. It keeps them sharp and keeps our shooters sharp as well and our playmakers, it keeps practice sharp.”

For both goaltenders, they’ve grown accustomed to a larger workload, but both have thrived in the timeshare they’re currently a part of. So far this month, Copley is 4-0-1, with a .934 save percentage and a 1.58 goals-against average while Korpisalo is 3-0-1 with a .921 save percentage and a 1.96 goals-against average. The Kings have not allowed more than two goals from a game in that span, shootouts withstanding, and lead the league at 1.78 goals against per game.

Both goaltenders were complementary of the other and the relationship they’ve built in a short time.

Copley – It’s good, Korpi is a great guy and a great goalie. We have a good relationship and we’re both just trying to do our best to earn ice time and give the guys a chance to win. I think it’s a good thing going.

Korpisalo – It’s been really good, he’s a great guy and a great goalie. It’s fun to compete with him out there every day, in a good way. I think we push each other [to be better].

Whatever everyone is doing, it’s working right now. As McLellan shared, what is the case today is not necessarily the case tomorrow and both goaltenders will know that. Neither, however, has shown any reason to not have the net at least every other game. Should that continue, the Kings have a goaltender battle in the best kind of way moving forward.

Air Force One (o’clock)
An earlier than usual start time tomorrow, Insiders!

The Kings will host the Winnipeg Jets in a 1 PM matinee at Arena, a rare front-end of the double header. The Kings typically play the 7:30 PM game, after the Lakers or Clippers play, but will this time take the front end.

On one hand, hopefully a positive for the Arena ice sheet, which no longer needs to be uncovered in rapid fashion, as the basketball court is dismantled and the ice surface is unveiled. From the team’s perspective, most guys here have played in those afternoon games before, whether it be at home or on the road. It’s a bit of a change to the routine and perhaps a welcomed one on the backend, with the extra six hours to rest in betweeng back-to-back games. But it’s a change nonetheless and the players will have to be prepared.

“It affects our timing in the day as far as meetings go, but the players have done it here enough to have a routine and to understand how they’re going to handle it,” McLellan said. “There’s not much that has to be said today to snap them into it, but they have to be ready for for a bit of an adjustment.”

The Kings are 1-1-0 in games played this season that you might consider being earlier-than-usual starts. The Kings defeated Toronto back in October and were defeated by Philadelphia on New Year’s Eve. A larger sample size last season led to a record of 8-3-0 in those situations, however, with the Kings seemingly adjusting during the 2021-22 campaign quite well. Not sure how much of an impact it will have, if any, but McLellan generally believes the Kings to be prepared and ready to go when the puck drops at 1 PM.

More to follow early tomorrow, Insiders, with the game preview. Will have notes on the power-play personnel and how it was adjusted against Calgary, plus a look at the various streaks and stands the Kings currently find themselves in the midst of. More to follow and thanks as always for reading!

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