2/24 Preview – Anderson, Arvidsson “week-to-week” + Spence Recalled, Clarke on Left, Kaliyev’s Emergence

WHO: Los Angeles Kings (26-17-10) vs. Anaheim Ducks (20-34-2)
WHEN: Saturday, February 24 @ 7:30 PM Pacific
WHERE: Crypto.com Arena – Los Angeles, CA
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: Bally Sports West – AUDIO – iHeart Radio – TWITTER: @DooleyLAK & @LAKings

TONIGHT’S MATCHUP: The Kings complete a three-game homestand this evening, with the Anaheim Ducks in town for the first Freeway Faceoff in Los Angeles this season.

HEAD-TO-HEAD: The Kings got five multi-point games when these teams met in Anaheim back in November, led by two goals from forward Kevin Fiala. Forward Adrian Kempe also had multiple points, with a pair of assists, giving him 24 points (14-10-24) from his last 16 games played versus Anaheim. Since the start of the 2020-21 season, no player in the NHL has more goals or points against the Ducks than Kempe.

KINGS VITALS: With the team day off yesterday, the Kings held a full morning skate earlier today at Toyota Sports Performance Center.

The Kings are expected to turn back to goaltender David Rittich tonight against Anaheim, with the Czech netminder off first following today’s morning skate. Rittich has faced the Ducks three times throughout his professional career, with a record of 0-1-0, a .895 save percentage and a 3.04 goals-against average.

Based on today’s morning skate, here’s how the Kings are expected to align this evening against the Ducks –

Laferriere – Kopitar – Kempe
Moore – Danault – Fiala
Byfield – Dubois – Kaliyev
Anderson-Dolan – Lizotte – Lewis

Gavrikov – Doughty
Clarke – Roy
Englund – Spence


As for today’s lineup specifically, the Kings are expected to make two lineup changes, with defenseman Jordan Spence checking in on the backend in place of the injured Mikey Anderson and forward Jaret Anderson-Dolan in place of Alex Turcotte. Anderson left Thursday’s loss to Nashville with an injury during the third period and did not return. More on the latest injury situation below.

DUCKS VITALS: Anaheim begins a back-to-back set this evening, before hosting the Nashville Predators tomorrow night at Honda Center.

Anaheim is expected to start goaltender John Gibson this evening at Crypto.com Arena. Tonight would mark Gibson’s 28th career appearance against the Kings, tying his high against any NHL opponent. All-time, Gibson is 14-12-0, with a .912 save percentage and a 2.61 goals-against average.

Per Derek Lee of The sporting Tribune, here’s how the Ducks lined up last time out versus Columbus –

Anaheim is without forwards Trevor Zegras and Brock McGinn, both of whom are on injured reserve. Ducks forward and NHL All-Star Frank Vatrano already has 26 goals this season, the second highest single-season total by an Anaheim forward since the 2017-18 campaign. His 10 power-play goals are the most by a Duck since Corey Perry’s 12 in the 2015-16 season.

Notes –
Making Sense Of Today’s Moves
To Recap –

– Viktor Arvidsson to Long-Term Injured Reserve
– Jordan Spence Recalled from AHL-Ontario
– Mikey Anderson out “week-to-week”

First things first, we finally get a piece of clarity regarding forward Viktor Arvidsson. Arvidsson left Tuesday’s game versus Columbus with a lower-body injury and now he heads to LTIR, which means he will miss a minimum of 10 games and 24 days worth of action. That puts us in mid-March, on the trip the Kings take to the Midwest for games against St. Louis, Chicago and Dallas. So, he’s out for a bit. That trip is about a week after the NHL’s Trade Deadline.

The context from Jim Hiller says the player will be out “week-to-week”, but Hiller was optimistic that Arvidsson was not done for the season.

“He’s week-to-week, you never know how things will progress, I do. I’m optimistic, so I certainly do. We’ll just see how it goes.”

Regarding Anderson and Spence, their situations are somewhat tied, but only somewhat. Spence was assigned to the AHL on Wednesday and played that night for the Reign, logging a heavy workload in his team’s shootout defeat versus Abbotsford. Spence remained with Ontario through yesterday but did not dress in the team’s win yesterday evening over Coachella Valley, likely in anticipation of playing tonight with the Kings. He was then recalled here this morning.

When you look at the update from this morning on defenseman Mikey Anderson, who left Thursday’s game with an injury, the move makes that much more sense. Anderson is not expected to play tonight against the Ducks and will not travel to Edmonton with the team tomorrow, where they’ll start a three-game swing in Western Canada.

Insert Spence, who has been with the Kings all season before Wednesday’s de-facto conditioning loan and is seen as an NHL player.

Spence’s assignment was never meant to be more than temporary, but with Brandt Clarke earning a bit of an extended look, it was important for both to be playing games. We saw the same move made the other way, with Clarke assigned to Ontario at the beginning of the month when Spence was the one playing regularly. With Arvidsson being placed on LTIR here this morning, the Kings now have ample room to add an extra player back onto the roster, independent of Anderson’s injury. Now, Spence re-joins the big club and is expected to play tonight against Anaheim. Moving forward, the Kings have the space to travel with an extra defenseman to Edmonton if they so choose. The logical option would be Jacob Moverare, who impressed earlier this season and buried the overtime game-winning goal yesterday for Ontario.

Regarding potential salary-cap implications going forward, the Kings have little to worry about approaching the next, at minimum, 3-4 weeks. With Arvidsson’s LTIR designation and salary, the Kings have ample space to play with and if Anderson’s injury winds up keeping him out on the longer side, they could retroactively add him to LTIR as well. Regardless, the Kings will have the ability to carry 13 forwards and seven defensemen without issue, should they so choose. The team departs for Edmonton tomorrow afternoon to play three games in four nights in Western Canada.

Lineup Impact
So how do the above transactions, as well as recent play, impact tonight’s lineup?

First things first, the Kings will have four, right-shooting defensemen in tonight’s lineup against the Ducks. When asked, Jim Hiller didn’t have too many concerns with the alignment, noting that there are positives and negatives to it.

“It’s got different challenges, there are also some positives on the offensive blueline, you can walk across the middle, but there are pluses and minuses,” Hiller said this morning. “It’s just managing those a little bit. Yawns will keep those guys moving around, I don’t think anything will be permanent back there, he’ll probably juggle quite a bit.”

From today’s skate, the first player likely to be most impacted looks to be Brandt Clarke, who took some drills alongside Matt Roy on the team’s second defensive pairing. Vladislav Gavrikov moved up alongside Drew Doughty, in Anderson’s usual place, with the well-traveled duo of Andreas Englund and Jordan Spence on the third pairing. As we’ve seen in previous games, and as Hiller mentioned above, the lines and pairings during rushes aren’t necessarily the lines and pairings all night long.

To start, though, we could see Clarke in that position on the left. He admitted he hasn’t been there in awhile, but also wasn’t all that concerned with the adjustment.

“I think that’s the plan tonight, I’m not sure exactly [the last time I played the left side], you take some shifts every now and then,” he said. “To actually start a game there and be lined up on that side of the board, it’s been awhile, but I have no issues with it. We’re a big system team, so as long as I play the right way, in that part of the system, it should go well.”

Clarke added that having a guy like Matt Roy on his right makes the transition all that much easier.

Roy is as reliable as the come defensively. Though he has offensive attributes that make him such a valuable player, he’s always one to take care of his own zone first, with the offense to follow. Considering Clarke’s offensive gifts, he spoke about how Roy has encouraged him to play his own game and that gives him confidence in a new role.

“Yeah he’s brilliant back there, he’s so smart with the puck, smart with his reads and getting to the middle of the ice,” Clarke added. “Even when we’ve had a couple shifts together he past games, he wants to encourage me to do what I can do and he’ll be right there and I know he’ll be a safety valve if I ever need to hinge the puck back. Just like a bunch of the other D on this team, he’s super smart and that’s always helpful.”

So that’s 5-on-5, but with Anderson’s absence also comes minutes on the penalty kill. Doughty, Gavrikov and Roy are regulars in that area, but Anderson was typically the fourth. Logic would point towards Andreas Englund stepping into more minutes on the penalty kill – he averages 56 seconds per night in PK situations – but still, Anderson played 2:32 per game, second only to Roy among Kings players.

Large role to fill, but someone’s got to do it and they’ve got to do it effectively.

“Somebody’s going to have to take the minutes, for sure, and we’ll discuss exactly how it will get spread out,” Hiller added. “Our penalty kill has been good, we’ve got a good structure. Whoever it is, I’m sure will go in and do a good job.”

While not necessarily injury related, the Kings are also shuffling things around a bit up front, at least to start.

Look for Arthur Kaliyev to get an opportunity alongside Pierre-Luc Dubois and Quinton Byfield, with Blake Lizotte moving back into a more comfortable role at center, between Trevor Lewis and Jaret Anderson-Dolan, who checks back in for Alex Turcotte.

Hiller felt that Kaliyev was “probably our most dangerous offensive player” against Nashville, after the coaching staff dissected the video. He liked the energy that Kaliyev played with on Thursday and how he was “decisive in his actions”, turning the puck up ice and getting pucks directly to the net.

“We’re really looking forward to that line tonight with Dubie, Q and Arthur,” Hiller added. “That’s three big men, it should be pretty hard to contain.”

There’s also an identity for the fourth-line, that Hiller is expecting to see. They play a certain way, pointing to past success and the energy they play with.

Puck drops tonight, with a winning homestand on the line and a chance to put the Nashville game behind them. 7:30 puck drop on the Freeway Faceoff, Part 2!

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