Kings Place Goaltender Pheonix Copley on LTIR + Goaltending Situation Moving Forward

An injury update this morning, Insiders, as the Kings have placed goaltender Pheonix Copley on long-term injured reserve.

Copley left Friday’s practice towards the end of the skate and did not return. He did not travel with the team to Seattle later that day and was not available as the Kings defeated the Kraken yesterday evening at Climate Pledge Arena.

A placement on long-term injured reserve means that Copley will be out a minimum of 10 games or 24 days and that the Kings can exercise some additional space above the salary cap, with Copley’s cap hit of $1,500,000. The Kings are already utilizing cap relief, with Viktor Arvidsson also on LTIR, which has allowed them to operate with a more normalized roster size, as opposed to what was expected to be a lesser roster at the start of the season. Whether you use 10 games or 24 days, an LTIR designation takes Copley out of action, at minimum, into the Kings six-game roadtrip in January.

For Copley, it’s really a bummer to see him go down. He was an absolutely vital part of last season’s Kings team. He came in at a time of instability throughout the lineup and provided solid play in net, which resulted in one of the NHL’s best win/loss records a season ago. Copley’s performance saw him earn a one-year contract extension for this season, where he’s partnered with Cam Talbot. While Copley had an “inconsistent” start, in his own words, he had seemed to turn the corner a bit with recent performances. With a couple of back-to-backs coming up, before a grueling January schedule, ample additional opportunities were on the horizon.

With Copley out, the Kings will turn to goaltender David Rittich to join the tandem at the NHL level. Signing Rittich over the summer felt like a little bit of a coup at the time, considering he was likely slotted as the third goaltender. Rittich had not played an AHL game since the 2017-18 season with the since-relocated Stockton Heat. He was an NHL All-Star in 2020. While he played mostly as a backup since then, he was a proven, solid, NHL goaltender, who the Kings were fortunate to see slide through waivers back in October.

It’s situations like this why you sign a player like Rittich. He’s established at this level and there likely won’t be any hesitation in giving him the net when needed. The Kings will play two sets of back-to-back games this month so that’s at least two starts coming his way. As we get into January, the Kings will need both goaltenders playing and there’s confidence in Rittich to step right in and contribute. Assume we’ll see his organizational debut either Tuesday in San Jose or Wednesday at home versus Seattle and we’ll go from there.

While the Copley news is mostly impacting the NHL level, the recall also impacts the Ontario Reign.

Rittich had been the starter on a very successful early-season tandem with rookie netminder Erik Portillo. Now, the opportunity opens for the highly-touted young goaltender to take on the lion’s share of the work this season. The Kings invested a third-round draft pick to acquire Portillo’s NHL rights at the trade deadline last season, signing him towards the end of last season to his entry-level contract. Entering the day, Portillo is a Top-5 goaltender in the AHL in save percentage and goals-against average. He’s largely started one game to Rittich’s two. Now, he’ll be the top dog and it’s a great opportunity for him to see an added workload. Reports on Portillo’s work during practice and his development have been strong. Now, he’ll get a heavy workload and we’ll see how he handles it. More to come on Portillo tomorrow, with a feature story from our prospects guru Jack Jablonski.

Partnering Portillo will be Jacob Ingham, who earns his way back to the AHL in what’s been a really nice bounce-back story this season. Ingham missed all of last season due to injury. Didn’t play a single game. Coming off his entry-level contract, the Reign signed him to an AHL deal this summer and he was eventually assigned to the ECHL’s Greenville Swamp Rabbits after he put in a strong showing during rookie camp and training camp, building his best bit of momentum as a professional player.

With Greenville, he’s posted the strongest stretch of play in his professional career. Ingham has a record of 11-2-0, with a .920 save percentage and a 2.64 goals-against average. No goaltender across the league has won more games this season. It’s been one heck of a start and now he’ll get a well-earned opportunity to play in the AHL once again. Ontario has a couple of back-to-backs coming up as well, so when Ingham does finally get back into AHL action, it’ll have been a long time coming. Good story.

Kings are off today, so we won’t get any additional updates regarding any of the goaltenders this afternoon. Practice tomorrow at 11 AM, before the Kings will depart for San Jose later on in the day, beginning a back-to-back set that concludes on Wednesday evening at home versus Seattle. Should we get any context regarding Copley’s status beyond the minimum time out, will report that here tomorrow.

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