11/18 Preview – Dubois “penciled in” + Laferriere’s Return, Talbot’s Workload & Performance

WHO: Los Angeles Kings (9-3-3) vs. St. Louis Blues (8-6-1)
WHEN: Saturday, November 18 @ 7:30 PM Pacific
WHERE: Crypto.com Arena – Los Angeles, CA
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: KCAL-TV (CH. 9) – AUDIO – iHeart Radio – TWITTER: @DooleyLAK & @LAKings

TONIGHT’S MATCHUP: The Kings are back at it tonight on home ice, as they host the St. Louis Blues to conclude a four-game homestand at Crypto.com Arena.

HEAD-TO-HEAD: Forward Kevin Fiala led the Kings with seven points (1-6-7) from three games played against St. Louis last season, with a multi-point night each time he faced the Blues. Forwards Carl Grundstrom and Adrian Kempe led the way with three goals apiece in the season series, with Kempe scoring all three of his goals at Crypto.com Arena.

KINGS VITALS: As has been their protocol for most of the season, the Kings held an optional morning skate today, following a mostly full team practice yesterday afternoon.

Goaltender Cam Talbot was not on the ice for today’s skate, making him tonight’s projected starter in net for the Kings again tonight. Talbot brings an all-time record of 7-8-6 against the Blues, with a .893 save percentage and a 3.21 goals against average.

After he left Thursday’s game with an injury during the third period and missed yesterday’s practice, forward Pierre-Luc Dubois took the ice today for morning skate and the Kings have him “penciled in” for tonight, though he had not yet checked in with the team’s training staff. Forward Quinton Byfield, who missed yesterday’s practice with a maintenance day, was also on the ice. As such, a potential lineup for tonight’s game –

Byfield – Kopitar – Kempe
Fiala – Danault – Moore
Laferriere – Dubois – Kaliyev
Grundstrom – Lizotte – Lewis

Anderson – Doughty
Gavrikov – Roy
Englund – Spence


Per Todd McLellan, the Kings are at least planning on Dubois playing. Additionally, forward Alex Laferriere will return to the lineup tonight, after missing last game, swapping back in for forward Jaret Anderson-Dolan. On the transactional front, defenseman Jacob Moverare was recalled from AHL-Ontario and will likely serve as the seventh defenseman during tonight’s game.

BLUES VITALS: St. Louis entered their four-game roadtrip having won five of its last six games but dropped the first game on the road with a 5-1 defeat in San Jose.

Goaltender Jordan Binnington is expected to get the nod tonight in Los Angeles, after he entered the game in relief on Thursday in San Jose. Binnington has faced the Kings 14 times throughout his professional career, carrying with him a record of 5-7-2, with a .908 save percentage and a 2.75 goals-against average.

Per Matthew DeFranks of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, here’s how the Blues aligned on Thursday in San Jose –

St. Louis ranks fifth in the NHL in fewest goals allowed this season and fifth to last in goals scored. The Blues are one of two teams in the NHL with fewer than 45 goals both scored and allowed entering the day. Forward Robert Thomas leads all St. Louis skaters in goals (6), assists (11), points (17) and plus/minus (+8) entering tonight’s action.

Notes –
Look for forward Alex Laferriere to check back into tonight’s lineup against the St. Louis Blues.

“As a young player, sometimes it’s not a bad thing to come out and just watch a game and he’ll go right back, we’re showing a ton of confidence in him,” McLellan said this morning. “He started as a very confident player and we want him to continue on doing those things. He played a very aggressive game early and now, sometimes safe is death, in hockey play. Play free, be prepared to make mistakes, we’ll help you with them, but he does a lot of good things and it’s really easy to help him with his confidence, when Jimmy [Hiller] or somebody sits with him and shows him those things. He’ll see it a little bit more and he’ll be fine.”

The Kings gave forward Jaret Anderson-Dolan a game on Thursday, in place of Laferriere, and tonight’s we’ll see those two reversed.

Laferriere took the move in stride. It’s been a whirlwind of a start to the season for a young player who is playing his first, full season at the professional level. While everyone wants to play every night, this was seen more as a reset opportunity for Laferriere than a demotion. It was one game off to watch things from up to and get right back into the lineup. He

“I think that it definitely helped, just getting to see the game from up top, kind of see plays develop and stuff like that,” Laferriere said this morning. “I think sometimes you can lose it a little bit, just because of the amount of games we play, but I think it was good to just get up there and see everything from up top.”

Laferriere pointed to the direct communication from the coaches as a positive when discussing the situation as a whole.

McLellan is not usually someone who will say things in the media that he or a member of the coaching staff hasn’t already shared with the player directly. That level of communication was something that Laferriere appreciated as he checked out of the lineup for the first time.

“I think the coaches have done a good job of kind of communicating what they want out of me, and to get back to my game that I had there in the beginning of the season,” he added. “For me, I think it’s just keeping it simple, working hard and just doing the little things.”

So what are those things? Let McLellan tell you.

“He’s a tenacious player, he’s got a good set of legs and a tenacity that goes after it, he can put pucks in good areas and he’s willing to go do the work for it,” McLellan said. “I thought he was not deferring early in the season, he got the puck, he was willing to shoot it and go get it again. Now, when he gets it, he’s thinking a little bit about what else could I do with it? So, those were all strengths of his that are still there and they exist and we’ll see them again for sure.”

Good to see how Laferriere responds this evening against the Blues.

Talkin Talbot
Another strong night between the pipes for goaltender Cam Talbot on Thursday.

Coming out of a performance in which he stopped 30 of the 31 shots he faced in a 2-1 win over Florida, just one goaltender in the NHL has more wins this season than Talbot’s eight. Just four goaltenders with double-digit appearances have a better save percentage than Talbot’s .927. Per Natural Stat Trick, just three goaltenders in the NHL have a higher Goals Saved Above Average (GSAA) than Talbot’s 8.25 at all strengths.

From just about all angles, Talbot’s been exactly what the Kings have needed here in the early goings of the season and his teammates have taken notice. While they might not know the exact statistical breakdown, the players in front of him have seen the level of play and they’re comfortable in front of him.

“He’s been great, especially on that roadtrip he played every game and as a goaltender, you want to be in that position, ready to go every game,” Anze Kopitar said of Talbot. “Winning and us scoring goals in front of him certainly helps, but he’s been solid back there. The saves that he needs to make, he’s there and then some. He’s helping to win us games.”

Todd McLellan has spoken numerous times about his comfort level and confidence with Talbot between the pipes.

Talbot has proven to be a strong fit, once again, for McLellan’s system here in their second time working together in the NHL. McLellan pointed to Talbot’s ability not just to save the puck, but to effectively read plays, as a possible reason as to why.

“I think Cam reads the play well,” McLellan said. “We think of just goaltenders that make saves, he can read the play. We try to be as predictable as we can for all positions, but especially for a goaltender, and perhaps that helps him too.”

As the schedule sits right now, the Kings have the ability to continue ride Talbot a bit more aggressively than they will later in the season. Come December and certainly in January, rolling through the All-Star break, the Kings know that they will need two goaltenders playing and playing well.

In the here and now, McLellan and the coaching staff understand that the Kings are in a quieter part of their schedule and should they opt to go back to Talbot, which it appears as if they will do tonight, they have the luxury of doing so right now.

“I’m not saying we can just run one goaltender but we have that luxury and if we so choose,” McLellan said. “Talbs played very well [on Thursday], he’s played very well all season. He had an average workload, then [Friday] was a clean-out day for our team and he didn’t get a lot of work as far as stress work goes in practice, just enough to feel good and get ready to play again. So, if we choose to use him [tonight], I think we’re okay and then we just keep on making decisions day after day.”

While perhaps we envisioned more of a split in starts early on this season, it was always clear that there was an opportunity for a goaltender to seize more of the share based on their performance, especially in the early goings. Talbot’s play to date has given him the bulk of the starts here in October and November, but we’ve played just 15 of 82 games, so there’s a ways to go.

The Kings will play 15 games during the month of January and then following the NHL’s All-Star break, they’ll have 11 games in 19 days to close out February. A long road ahead and the Kings know they’ll need to lean on Pheonix Copley quite a bit during that run of games, as well as Talbot.

For now, though, the Kings have the option to continue to give Talbot the net, as his play merits it. As long as the results continue, there shouldn’t be much of an issue in doing so.

Kings and Blues, 7:30 PM tonight on KCAL – first game of six we’ll see this season on KCAL!

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