3/22 Practice – Rest/Maintenance Day for Kopitar & Today’s Alignment + Recapping Night 1 for Arvidsson

Back at it for practice!

The LA Kings took a full-team practice today, their second of the week, at a time of the season when practice time has been hard to come by.

Head Coach Jim Hiller felt the team got the most out of a full practice day on Monday and although the Kings didn’t come out strong on Tuesday, we saw close to the best of this team on Wednesday in the commanding win over Minnesota.

“We get to have another practice day, which I think is important, I was really glad we got to finally have a practice day here earlier this week,” Hiller said after Wednesday’s win. “I like to think that helped us with our results, in our preparation into the two games, the back-to-back.”

Fast forward to this morning and both Hiller and his players seemed equally excited to get the group on the ice and work on a few areas of that game that have been perhaps neglected.

Over the last couple of months, the Kings have rarely had the time to have both a rest day and a practice day in between games. Feels like they’ve been going every other day since the calendar flipped into 2022. To have the opportunity to kick back yesterday and then get back at it today was certainly welcomed.

“We look back at October, November, we’d have five days in between games and you enjoyed it in October but then you really get the other side of it at the end of the year,” forward Pierre-Luc Dubois said. “These past two months have been crazy for us, we’ve been playing every other day it feels like. To be off yesterday and not play today felt extremely weird, but it was nice. Did some video, got a workout, got to practice, it was really good.”

Regarding today’s skate, Hiller is not one to dive into the specifics on what he and the staff was focused on, but he detailed for us a little bit of the plan for days like today.

It’s an opportunity to drill into smaller areas of the game, ones that perhaps get neglected when the team goes a week or two without a hard practice. That was the plan today, with a bit of competition and fun mixed in.

“Without trying to slow the practice down too much and lose the pace and the energy, which is what you want at this time of the year, we try to pick just a small area of the game that maybe needs to be touched up, needs improving, or to add a little bit of something,” Hiller said. “We’ve taken those opportunities, today was another opportunity to do that. We won’t get into what we were focused on, but it give us an opportunity to focus on something that we thought we can do better and in the meantime, get out there and skate and have a little fun as you saw at the end.”

Here’s how the team lined up during today’s skate –

Byfield – Lewis – Kempe
Moore – Danault – Fiala
Arvidsson – Dubois – Laferriere
Moverare – Lizotte – Kaliyev

Anderson – Doughty
Gavrikov – Roy
Englund – Spence

Rittich / Talbot

Missing from today’s practice were forwards Anze Kopitar and Alex Turcotte.

On Kopitar, Hiller referred to the absence as a “maintenance” or “rest” day. Did not seem particularly concerned about it, with nothing from today suggesting he would not be available tomorrow.

“He needed a rest, that’s all, nothing major, he’s played a lot over the last little while. Maintenance, rest day, nothing to be too concerned about for anybody in here.”

On Turcotte, he’s currently got a “day-to-day” designation, after he left the game on Tuesday during the third period due to injury. Turcotte did not dress on Wednesday against Minnesota and did not practice today. We’ll check back in tomorrow to see his status for the game versus Tampa Bay.

As a result, the Kings had just 18 skaters on the ice for today’s practice. Jacob Moverare donned a white jersey and skated as a forward, on a unique line with Blake Lizotte and Arthur Kaliyev. Moverare has been dressed as the team’s seventh defenseman recently, with the Kings seeming to prefer an 11F / 7D alignment of late. Today, however, Moverare skated up and made a couple nice plays during line-based drills, including a saucer pass to Lizotte for a goal in a forwards vs. defensemen drill that won it for the forwards, sparking a huge reaction, the “fun” Hiller mentioned earlier.

Doesn’t necessarily seem like the alignment for tomorrow, with Kopitar expected to play. We’ll see how things look tomorrow, though, with an optional morning skate expected.

Viktor, Night One
Let’s look at night one for Viktor Arvidsson.

15:42 in time on ice, though he didn’t take a shift in the latter stages of the game, when things started to get a bit “tiresome”, as Jim Hiller put it. Several misconduct penalties saw the Kings bench thinned out to just seven players, including Arvidsson, who did not play a shift down the stretch. Arvidsson’s last shift came right around the halfway point of the third period, ending with 9:35 remaining in the third, with Hiller opting to hold him out, considering the hoopla that ensued.

“He could have played a lot more, but if you look at the minutes, they were actually quite low for a lot of guys,” Hiller said. “I don’t think anybody – we’re back on the 11/7 – if you asked any of those 11 forwards today, every one of them will tell you they could have played a little more, every single one of them. So, we can manage to spread that out a little bit on different nights.”

Arvidsson, overall, looked pretty good in Wednesday’s win over Minnesota.

The 15:42 he logged in two-and-a-half periods was probably right around where the Kings were okay with in total, considering he was only really that high due to power-play time. Among forwards who were not ejected from the game, Arvidsson’s 10:16 skated at 5-on-5 was the lowest on the team. Only Adrian Kempe and Anze Kopitar played fewer minutes in those situations and they exited a bit early, in a devastating blow to Kopitar’s Lady Byng campaign.

In terms of how he slotted in, Arvidsson was a good fit on night one alongside Pierre-Luc Dubois and Alex Laferriere on the team’s third line.

“PL and Laf, they’ve been together most of the season, they’ve had a lot of different wingers, and we haven’t really had a consistent winger there with them, there’s been a lot of different players,” Hiller said this morning. “Arvy’s an easy guy to play with. I think we have some chemistry between Laf and Dubie and Arvy fit in there really well, because there’s a mix of size, skill and speed. I think Arvy brings a little bit more speed and quickness and they have the elements of a really good looking line.”

For Dubois, he’s seen a ton of players come through his line over the first 69 games of the season.

He hasn’t seen a ton of guys like Arvidsson, though, because there aren’t a ton of guys like Arvidsson out there. He’s a unique player, who plays the game cerebrally and in a crafty way that allows him to make plays offensively. While they are built differently from the standpoint of stature, Arvidsson and Dubois think the game in a similar way. It’s made Dubois pretty excited to add him to his line.

“It was my first day playing with [Arvidsson], it felt pretty natural,” Dubois said. “Obviously we can build on some chemistry and build off of little things like that, but everybody plays the game differently. You want to develop chemistry with guys and a guy like Arvy, me and him see the game in a similar way. In the offensive zone, we’ve talked about it already, where we like to be, where we like to look, we’re on the same page with that, which is always fun.”

Add in Laferriere, who has elevated his own game as of late, and you’ve got the makings for a good line. One we will likely expect to see again tomorrow against Tampa Bay.

Adding Arvidsson into that spot gives the Kings, what they hope, are three lines in the Top-9 that are capable of scoring, while not sacrificing anything defensively.

While we’ve only seen five games of Arvidsson this season, all five games have been Kings victories. Something that’s not lost on his teammates, who are happy to have him back.

“What he can do with the puck every night, I’ve played against him a lot, he’s not a guy that’s big in stature, but he’s big in energy, emotion, his shot,” goaltender Cam Talbot added. “He brings a lot to our power play, he brings a lot to our jump up front and he can change the trajectory of a game by himself. We’ve seen it, in all five games he’s put on the skates we’ve won, so that’s a pretty good indication of what he can do for us when he’s in the lineup.”

Kings and Lightning tomorrow, with a 3-0 homestand on the line. Coming into town is a Tampa Bay squad that has given the Kings problems in recent years, on the back of five consecutive wins. Big test in a Saturday-night showdown, with a full preview to come tomorrow.

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