We’re back, Insiders!
Fresh off a break that didn’t feel like much of a break, the LA Kings return to practice this afternoon at Toyota Sports Performance Center in El Segundo.
First things first, the team announced a pair of recalls from the Ontario Reign, in defenseman Brandt Clarke and forward Alex Turcotte. The pair were with the NHL club heading into the break, but were assigned to the Reign, along with forward Samuel Fagemo, as the team returned home from Nashville. All three players skated with Ontario in their final two games before the break, with Clarke scoring on Friday against Colorado.
Clarke then went on to San Jose, where he participated in the AHL All-Star Classic. Clarke was the winner of the accuracy shooting event during the skills competition and the Pacific Division won the 3-on-3 tournament, making Clarke a double winner. More on Clarke’s experience in San Jose HERE, from the Skills Competition, and HERE, with a look at his prowess during the skills competition and his experience alongside his brother Graeme, who was an AHL All-Star as well, representing the Utica Comets.
For Turcotte, he’s hopeful to build off of a really strong pair of games going into the break. While his ice time was limited due to team penalties in his season debut in St. Louis, he played with a lot of energy in a strong game versus the Blues. The following game in Nashville, Turcotte was selected as the game’s first star, after collecting his first career NHL goal and his first career NHL assist, with a +3 rating as his line buried three goals in total on the evening. With Blake Lizotte out of action for at least the foreseeable future – he has not yet resumed skating with a lower-body injury and is a candidate for LTIR, per General Manager Rob Blake – Turcotte has a real opportunity to get a run of games with the Kings.
For today, Clarke, Turcotte and the rest of the Kings will hit the ice for the first time since the 4-2 win over Nashville on January 31. It’ll be the first practice led by Interim Head Coach Jim Hiller, who takes over for the remainder of the season.
In a very encouraging sign, forward Viktor Arvidsson is on the ice for today’s practice, his first skate back with the group after he had back surgery in October. Arvidsson has been skating on his own for around a month straight, beginning with when the team left on their early-January trip that started in Washington. He’s been progressing steadily and on schedule during that time and today he skates with the full group in a non-contact, red jersey. Had the All-Star break not come when it did, he might’ve been back with the group sooner. While he’s not expected to play on Saturday against Edmonton, Blake left open the possibility that he could potentially feature on the upcoming four-game roadtrip. At the least, expect Arvidsson to travel on that trip to continue to practice with the group. Very, very good news.
For today, the group appears to be aligned as follows –
Byfield – Kopitar – Kempe
Moore – Danault – Fiala
Laferriere – Dubois – Anderson-Dolan
Grundstrom – Turcotte – Lewis – Kaliyev
Anderson – Doughty
Gavrikov – Roy
Englund – Spence – Clarke
No Cam Talbot today, as the veteran goaltender gets another day off after participating in the NHL All-Star Game in Toronto. Expecting Talbot will re-join the group for practice tomorrow. Goaltender David Rittich is partnered by an EBUG for the day, giving the Kings two goalies on the ice today.
As for the rest of the group, not a ton of shakeup here on Day 1 of the Hiller regime.
Expect to see Hiller begin to put his stamp on the group, but let’s also keep in mind this is Day 1. Day 1 isn’t reflective even of Day 2, Day 3 and so on……it would be nearly impossible to simply change everything on the fly in two practices during the middle of the season. In time, we’ll get a better sense of exactly what Hiller’s plans are.
More to follow today, as Hiller addresses the media for the first time in his new role, with players also weighing in on the situation following their first practice back.