As Todd McLellan said after yesterday’s game, the Kings would travel home, they’ll fix some things and they’ll get ready to play again.
Not much of a break in between games, as the Kings move from the Pacific Division leading Vegas Golden Knights yesterday to the Central Division leading Colorado Avalanche tomorrow evening. The team hit the ice for around 25 minutes today, getting things moving and a few selected drills later, the skate had commenced.
No new additions to today’s skate and no subtractions, either. The Kings had the same 13 forwards, seven defensemen and two goaltenders who were available to play yesterday on the ice with them today. There are 10 days remaining here between today and Game 1 of the postseason and the cards will fall as they may in that span as it comes to availability. Lot of time for a lot of things to change and the cards will fall as they may in that span, but sharing that none of those who are currently injuerd were on the ice today.
As for today, the top six from the start of yesterday’s game were back in gray jerseys, while the other seven forwards – yesterday’s bottom six plus Jaret Anderson-Dolan – were in white. Not a line rushes type of skate, so we’ll wait until tomorrow before making any real projections based on either changes made in-game yesterday or what we saw in today’s practice.
When asked again about those in-game adjustments, which saw Arthur Kaliyev and Carl Grundstrom both take shifts on the top line, as well as Quinton Byfield shift back to center, McLellan pointed first to in-game adjustments in trying to spark something, as he mentioned last night. He also highlighted certain things that moving lines around gave the team the opportunity to do. It’s been awhile since the Kings had seen a variety of looks during a game setting and we saw some of those things play out yesterday in Vegas.
“About six minutes into the game, when we were down whatever we were at the time, 3 or 4, it was time to jolt the guys,” he said. today. “We’ve been a group that’s played the same way, with the same people, for a long time and sometimes that can go a little stale. When you’re looking for something in the game, we went to the blender and Q got some icetime in the middle, Arty’s been wanting to play more minutes up high, so let’s see it. Some guys got a little more, some guys got a little less. There were 53 minutes left in the game, that’s a lot of hockey, so let’s see it and that’s why we did that.”
The Kings didn’t score a 5-on-5 goal against Vegas, so it’s not as if anything revolutionary was discovered, though there were some takeaways. The line with Kaliyev alongside Kopitar and Kempe provided for some offensive zone time, but also the fifth goal against. For those wanting to see Carl Grundstrom in that spot, you got 20 minutes of it yesterday. Byfield moving back into the middle was his first time there in the new year, having featured as the LW1 since he was moved there back in late-December in Colorado. He skated with Kaliyev and Alex Iafallo on day one of training camp, so there were early indications of wanting to see that line. As discussed in yesterday’s preview, 5-on-5 offense both for and against has been dry of late. In a lopsided game, with a lot of time to play, the Kings smiply tried some things, with a varying degree of result.
McLellan kept the door open to future combinations with relation to Byfield, indicating that the team has plans for how they’d like to utilize him in both the short term and the long term. Today’s practice gave indications that Byfield would remain in the top six on the wing, going at least by the jersey colors, but the Kings do still view Byfield as a center for the long haul, as McLellan has stated in the past.
McLellan on Lady Byng Conversation
The Lady Byng Trophy is awarded “to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.”
Have to imagine that Anze Kopitar is in that conversation. He certainly meets the high standard of playing ability aspect of the award and has won the trophy once previously, during the 2015-16 season. Kopitar has just four penalty minutes so far this season and only four players who have exceeded 50 games played have fewer. Just one of those players averages more than 15 minutes per game and none are above the 20-minute mark, as Kopitar is.
McLellan spoke today about what the trophy means and why Kopitar is a prime candidate.
“I think the definition of the award itself is how it’s voted on. You’ve got to have an impact on the game, a positive impact on the game, night after night, and you do it very hard, very competitive, but you don’t find yourself in the penalty box and you don’t find yourself hurting your team that way. That’s the definition of the award, at least from how I understand it, and [Kopitar] does that night after night.”
McLellan on Changing Momentum
Situationally speaking, a coach has a few moves in his arsenal when you get quick hitters against, like the first period of last night’s game.
The Kings conceded twice in 62 seconds and twice more within the first 12 minutes of the opening frame. The options aren’t all that prevalent, though we’ve seen all of them used at times. A coach can pull his goaltender, which McLellan showed the willingness to do less than 60 seconds into the game in Nashville earlier this season. He can call a timeout, which we saw in a game in Calgary that wasn’t going according to plan early. A coaching staff can also change up their lines and combinations and in the moment yesterday, the Kings opted to switch things up in that way, in hopes of finding players throughout the game.
McLellan spoke on the options he and his staff have at their disposal in situations like that, indicating that each is different and each decision needs to be made quickly and in the moment.
“I think it’s strictly situational,” he said. “You’re going with your gut. We’ve got Korpisalo in there, he’s a relatively new goaltender, we’ve never had to pull him. We don’t know how he would react emotionally, the team wasn’t real good around him, so that’s taken into consideration. We’ve pulled the goalie 40 seconds into a game this year, so we could have done that as well, but again, you take every situation, try and evaluate it a in very, very short period of time and try to jolt the team a little bit.
Portillo’s Season Ends In Frozen Four
Goaltender Erik Portillo saw his collegiate season come to an end yesterday evening with the University of Michigan, as the Wolverines were defeated by Quinnipiac in the semifinals of the Frozen Four by a 5-2 final. Portillo made 25 saves on 29 shots in defeat, as Michigan fell in the semifinals for the second consecutive season.
The Kings acquired Portillo at the trade deadline in exchange for a third-round selection. While Portillo has a year of collegiate eligibility remaining, he could join the Kings organization with his season now concluded. As is always the case in these situations, that could mean an entry-level contract or an amateur try out with the AHL’s Ontario Reign. For the Kings, the contract situation in net for the forseeable future is extremely wide open, with just two goaltenders inked beyond this season. The Kings need to make decisions throughout the organization in net, including with regards to Portillo.
The 6-6 netminder has a 60-22-3 record from three NCAA seasons, to complement a .918 save percentage and a 2.49 goals-against average.
The Kings are hopeful that last night’s game is simply a blip on the radar. More on that to come in tomorrow’s game preview as the team looks to get back on track versus the Avalanche.
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