Back at it, Insiders!
The Kings had their one off day in Australia yesterday and took the day on the links for a team golf outing. From here on out, the Kings will be at Rod Laver Arena, beginning with today’s practice, as well as a pair of games tomorrow and Sunday against the Arizona Coyotes.
For today’s skate, there was an added wrinkle of public attendance. Todd McLellan has said a couple of times coming in that he didn’t know exactly what to expect from a day like this. The Kings have obviously never experienced it and there’s a lot going on today, 24 hours before the first ever NHL games ever played in Australia. With a lot to take in, today was certainly not your standard practice, though that’s not to say the Kings didn’t accomplish what they wanted to and what they needed to.
“From a practice standpoint, we got what we needed,” McLellan said today. “We hoped to take it a little longer and a little further, new ice conditions, sometimes it’s tough to do that, but we got what we needed. I thought our group had some good energy today and that was the environment or the atmosphere that was created by the music, the fans that were here. I do believe the players are sensing that a game is coming, so it changes a little bit. We’ve been here a while so it’s time to play.”
Today’s skate saw the Kings on the ice, running drills, with some situational relevance. It was just a bit out of the ordinary. There was music playing over the speakers for the entire practice and fans lined the sides of the lower bowl inside the arena, erupting every time the Kings put the puck into the net. A tic-tac-toe goal from the Nice Line, finished by forward Viktor Arvidsson, sent the crowd into a frenzy.
Following the formal practice, the Kings took the opportunity to address the crowd, as forward Anze Kopitar spoke over the PA system, as the group engaged with the fans who made the trip out to watch an NHL practice.
It was different, but cool.
“It was fun, they had some music going during practice, so that was different, we don’t usually have that,” defenseman Drew Doughty said. “That was kind of cool and there were lots of fans there too, so when we’re scoring goals and stuff, they’re adding some good cheers and whatnot.”
The Kings aligned today as they have throughout the week. The forward lines and defensive pairings were the same as we saw at the O’Brien Icehouse during the practices held there and the goaltenders rotated through as they have been. That lineup is below for reference –
Byfield – Kopitar – Kempe
Moore – Danault – Arvidsson
Fiala – Dubois – Kaliyev
Grundstrom – Lizotte – Lewis
Anderson-Dolan – Turcotte – Fagemo – Doty
Anderson – Doughty
Gavrikov – Roy
Englund – Spence
Bjornfot – Moverare
Copley / Rittich / Talbot
We’ll see all 27 players who made the trip skate in at least one of the two games this weekend, though we’re not exactly sure just yet which games will feature which plaeyrs. Several guys will have to go back-to-back, with several of the team’s most prolific veterans expected to be among those who play in both games. How exactly McLellan opts to deploy his lineup for those games remains to be seen until tomorrow, but we’ll get a look at everyone here in at least one of the two games.
g'day from the golf course 🏌️♂️ pic.twitter.com/tJ4DMAcLQn
— LA Kings (@LAKings) September 21, 2023
The LA Kings re-signed forward Trevor Lewis over the summer, marking his return to the organization for the first time since the 2019-20 season.
Lewis has two Stanley Cups and was a long-tenured member of the organization, though he has spent the last three seasons North of the border with Winnipeg and Calgary. He called it an “easy decision” to return this summer and detailed the reasons why, as well as where he and the organization are at, below.
Lewis On Why He Chose To Return
It was a pretty easy decision for me once I got the call. I told my wife about it and she started crying, she was so happy. I always wanted to come back, I kind of felt like I never left, and I grew up here. It was a pretty easy decision for me, but it’s nice to come back. Playing against [the Kings] the last couple of years, they’re building something good here and they were definitely a hard team to play against. I’m glad to be a part of it.
Lewis On How The Team Has Changed Since He Left
When I left, it was more about getting young guys in, getting prospects and I understood that. They had to get rid of some guys to get some younger guys in to play and I think we’ve done af great job of finding out the prospects that can play. Obviously they’ve turned into some pretty good players. Bringing in a lot of guys this summer, just from playing against them the last few years, you can see how much they’ve improved. It’s a really hard team to play against and I’m just excited to be a part of it and keep climbing.
Lewis On How He’s Built An NHL Role For Himself, Without Being A Huge Scorer
When I came into [the league], I kind of just established a role for myself and that role hasn’t changed too much over the course of my career. I’ve just tried to stay as physically fit as I possibly can, lead by example. I think being in my role and being the best I can be at that role, I think that’s what got me here.
The Kings entire travel party will attend an Australian Rules Football game tonight at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. The attendance is expected to be greater than 90,000, for what is the Australian version of the AFC or NFC Championship game in the NFL.
Pierre-Luc Dubois had the chance to meet Mason Cox of the Collingwood squad a couple of days back and now the Kings will watch Cox and his teammates take on the GWS Giants later on this evening. The whole group will be able to go watch tonight and they’re excited for the experience.
“That sport is a pretty crazy sport, those guys are nails and we’ve got a jersey for every guy on the team, so we’ll be supporting the [Magpies],” Doughty said. “I’m super excited, I’ve heard it’s like 90,000 people, I don’t think I’ve ever been a game with that many people in my life. Super excited, it’ll be a good event for the boys and I think everyone’s just pretty pumped to go.”
Even McLellan, who typically keeps his focus on the team and on the game expressed his interest and excitement for tonight.
It’s a unique experience for him, for the coaches and for the players.
“The AFL footy, we’re all excited about,” he said. “I can tell you it’s sport like sport, and we’re all trying to figure out what this game is, but it’s physical, it’s fast, it’s hard. We’re all awake at three in the morning because we can’t sleep anymore and we all watch this football game on there. I must have watched six games by now, way more than hockey. I’m starting to figure the rules out, I’m enjoying it. Now, the big debate is what color do you wear here? I’ve heard it’s black and white, if you were to the other color, you may be in trouble. We’re looking forward to going to the game and feeling the environment, probably like a lot of those players or fans here are looking forward to our hockey game.”
Game preview to follow tomorrow! Kings and Coyotes as the exhibition season gets underway!