Quick skate this morning for the LA Kings, who took the ice at Toyota Sports Performance Center following last night’s victory over Florida, preceding tomorrow’s contest against St. Louis.
Forwards Pierre-Luc Dubois and Quinton Byfield did not practice today, with updates from Todd McLellan below.
Dubois left last night’s game against Florida during the third period, after he drove the net off the rush with speed and power, creating a high-caliber offensive opportunity, before he was tripped up and crashed into the post. Dubois did not return to the game from that point and did not practice this morning.
“PL went for a test today, he came back and I believe, from what I’ve quickly heard now, that the news is a lot better than it could have been,” McLellan said. “We’ll see where he is tomorrow.”
Additionally, forward Quinton Byfield did not practice today, with McLellan labeling his absence as a maintenance day.
“For Q, just a maintenance day, more sinuses and stuff like that than anything injury.”
With that in mind, here’s how the Kings lined up this morning –
Kopitar – Kempe
Fiala – Danault – Moore
Laferriere – Anderson-Dolan – Kaliyev
Grundstrom – Lizotte – Lewis
Anderson – Doughty
Gavrikov – Roy
Englund – Spence
So, we’ll give it 24 hours and see where things go between now and tomorrow’s game against St. Louis.
Forward Jaret Anderson-Dolan played his second game of the season yesterday, while Alex Laferriere sat out for the first time this season. McLellan felt that Anderson-Dolan did an “admirable” job in his first NHL game since October 14, noting the two games he played in Ontario last week helped to get him up to speed coming in. Overall, prior to the Dubois injury, McLellan felt that line had a good night. Assuming Byfield’s absence does not linger beyond today, the Kings would not need to make a roster move if they don’t want to, even if Dubois is unable to go.
Wishing Dubois a speedy recovery in his process. Certainly tough timing, coming after a pair of encouraging performances from him and a really strong play right before he was hurt.
Against Philadelphia on Saturday, a night in which the Kings were not at their best as a group, Dubois was on the ice for a season-high 17 shot attempts for at 5-on-5 and had four of those attempts himself, his most in a game this month. While it did not go in, the work of Dubois and Anderson-Dolan last night set up linemate Arthur Kaliyev for a Grade-A look in the slot, which he couldn’t get past Florida netminder Sergei Bobrovsky, not to mention his own near goal in the third period.
“With Pierre-Luc’s play with the puck, there’s no issue at all,” McLellan said. “He handles it well, he’s big, he’s strong, he makes plays. We’re trying to push him a little bit more without the puck, can he use his size and his body and create space. He and his line had a pretty good night, before he got banged up.”
The play Dubois was injured on was a powerful and direct play from Dubois, who nearly created a goal for himself with a really strong take through the neutral zone. We’ve seen several examples of Dubois using his size and strength with the puck to make plays, both offensively and defensively, even if the offensive end has not yet translated into the production he’s capable of.
McLellan added on today that he feels Dubois is starting to settle in to the stylistic way the Kings play the game. Once he is fully healthy, and continues to get more comfortable, we’ll see that player come out even more.
“He is getting used to how we play, where we do certain things, I think that’s gotten away sometimes, where he ends up thinking about the game a little bit and managing the game – just go play it,” McLellan added. “My comment [yesterday] was really complementing him on the power of his play with the puck. Away from the puck, he’s fine, there’s things he’s going to get better at as time goes on. He’s a guy that we need and we’re lucky to have him.”
Dubois, in his own words earlier this week, wants to be a play-driving forward who makes the players around him better. Typical centerman answer. McLellan said similar things about what he knows that top gear looks like for Dubois, as a guy who not only drives the play himself but also opens up ice for the guys he’s playing with. A player who the Kings missed today and we’ll see what his status is heading into tomorrow and moving forawrd.
Terrific night for Kings defenseman Mikey Anderson yesterday against Florida.
It was apparent by most standards, including those of Head Coach Todd McLellan.
“He had a real good night in my opinion, coming off one of his weaker performances probably against Philly, he would tell you that,” McLellan said. “His ability to break plays up and disrupt is huge and it’s either a full block, if we’re going that route, or just a nick with the tick or a touch, that’s as good as a block, sometimes, it’s better because you don’t have to absorb a 100-mile an hour shot. He was very good at it, he takes a lot of pride in it and it rubs off on others.”
Anderson’s contributions to the team aren’t quite as eye-catching as those of say Kevin Fiala, who also had a really strong game against the Panthers. Anderson is not bringing dynamic offensive ability every night, but the things that he’s doing, just about every game, as just as important to the success of the group as a whole.
For maybe more of a better look at what Anderson brings, look at this sequence here, 11 seconds into the video embedded above.
— Bally Sports West (@BallySportWest) November 17, 2023
That nick or touch, as McLellan put it, is apparent on the penalty kill, along with how he kills the play after and gets the clear. In that low role on the PK, Anderson did a great job of getting the deflection with his stick on a cross-crease passing attempt, a play that Florida got through earlier in the sequence but did not convert on. After the deflection, he wins the puck battle against a diving Matthew Tkachuk and as he’s falling to the ice himself, he ensures that the puck gets out of the zone.
Anderson led all Kings players in time-on-ice last night and his 5:07 on the penalty kill was also a team best. It’s an area he takes a ton of personal pride in and it’s also an area that the Kings are looking to him to contribute in each and every night.
“There’s been times when it hasn’t felt very natural, but I think now, everyone’s feeling pretty good about what we need to do, what everyone’s role is and everyone’s buying in,” Anderson said. “Whether it’s blocking shots or getting the clear, overall, it’s been been going good for us.”
Ever the team player, but those around him are taking notice of the things he’s doing in that spot.
“He’s an extremely smart player, he knows exactly where to be, what lanes to be in, anticipates the play so well,” goaltender Cam Talbot said of Anderson. “That goes for pretty much everyone on that PK unit, once one guy goes, it’s easy to read off everyone else, so that’s one of the key points that we try to touch on, on the PK, and Mikey is a big reason why it’s doing so well right now.”
An appreciated player by the Kings, who delivered once again in a 2-1 victory.
Blocked Shot Mentality
While Anderson was a standout in the defensive department, he was far from the only Kings player willing to chip in and contribute.
A statistic pointed out this morning was that the Kings blocked 22 shots last night against the Panthers. 12 players blocked at least one shot and no player blocked more than three. Perhaps a great statistic to overlay a strong performance overall, with a team-wide mentality in an area the Kings felt was not up to part against the Flyers on Saturday.
“That’s a sign of the commitment to those principles,” McLellan said after today’s practice.
While it was a team effort, let’s single out one moment in particular as having been important, because it came at the most crucial time of the game.
With less than 10 seconds left in regulation, forward Adrian Kempe sold out to block a shot at the point that more or less sealed the victory. It came on a night when Kempe was held off the scoresheet for the first time this month, as he saw a nine-game point streak come to an end. Still, this is the team’s leading scorer right now and he’s committing to doing those things, in that moment.
McLellan recalled back to when he first came to the Kings and used Kempe as a penalty killer, he didn’t see him in those shooting lanes when he needed to be. Now, as he’s grown and evolved, he’s putting himself in those situations just about every time and that’s a great sign of growth. When that player, the guy who leads your team in goals, is making that sacrifice, it goes throughout the entire group.
“If our leading goalscorer, a 41-goalscorer can sell out with seven seconds left in a game in November, it’s a powerful thing for everybody else on that team to watch,” McLellan said. “We were all out-sold by Philadelphia four days earlier in those areas, so to respond again is rewarding, not just for the coaches, but for the group as a whole.”
In speaking with Anderson today, he certainly saw Kempe’s commitment at the end of the game.
“Obviously Juice had a big one right at the end, last night, you’re out there at the end, 10 seconds left, d-zone faceoff, we lose the draw, someone’s going to have to get in the lane and block it,” Anderson said of Kempe making the play in that moment. “Everyone kind of locks in when they’re playing, you don’t think a whole lot, and all of a sudden it just happens kind of naturally for most guys. The buy-in we’ve had with everyone in blocking a shot is big for the group and helps us win.”
All in all, a good sign for the group moving forward, with the right type of response coming off a disappointing performance on Saturday.
Lastly, Insiders, will have a more in-depth posting to follow, but the Kings have signed forward Koehn Ziemmer to a three-year, entry-level contract.
Ziemmer was the team’s third-round draft pick during the 2023 NHL Draft and is off to another high-scoring start to the season in the WHL. A player the Kings would obviously look to sign at some point and today is the day! More to follow here this afternoon and we’ll hope to connect with Ziemmer in the coming days.