Practice 3/27 – Grundstrom Re-Joins Full Group + Today’s Focus, Teammates on Arvidsson, NCAA Preview

Practice day today for the LA Kings.

Feels like the team has been on the road for a week but we’ve seen just one game, the 3-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Monday evening. After the game, the team remained here in Vancouver for an off day yesterday, before returning to the ice this morning for a practice day at the University of British Columbia.

The schedule over the last two days has represented an approach we’ve seen develop under Jim Hiller, which emphasizes rest and recovery with full off days, but also pushes longer, higher intensity practices when the team does take the ice. It’s an approach we’ve seen from Hiller pretty consistently in his time here and as a result, I wouldn’t be surprised to see lighter attendance during morning skate tomorrow in Edmonton, something that Hiller is willing to encourage players not to take if they don’t feel they need it.

Today’s skate, as such, was a bit of a longer one, coming off the full-team day off.

Hiller spoke after today’s practice about a few key areas the team touched on during the skate. First and foremost, he said the Kings “wanted to get skating” and they got up and down the ice with pace, emphasizing breakouts in different situations. He also said the Kings worked on line changes, which is an interesting area, but it’s something he feels has slipped a bit over the last few weeks. A good day to hone in on those finer details of the game.

As for today’s alignment, we see the full traveling party on the ice today, aligned as follows –

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

Anderson – Doughty
Gavrikov – Roy
Englund – Spence

Rittich / Talbot

Good to see the man in red!

Carl Grundstrom took his first practice back with the team today, as he continues to work his way back from a lower-body injury. Grundstrom resumed skating on his own last week at Toyota Sports Performance Center and has progressed enough to take the trip here to Western Canada. He’s still in a red jersey and still on long-term injured reserve, so it certainly doesn’t feel like he’s an option tomorrow. Still, though, with two practices and three morning skates scheduled for this trip, there’s more than enough ice available to justify having Grundstrom here, as opposed to back at home.

“It’s so hard to be injured and be away from the team for as long as he had,” Hiller said this morning. “We talked about leaving him at home and letting him work out there, but [we wanted] to get him around the team. You can see he’s moving pretty good out there, so he’s getting close, but great to see his energy. He loves being out there, he’s a favorite of the guys just based on his work ethic.”

Good signs for sure.

Regarding the rest of the alignment today, it’s pretty much status quo. It’s really all that’s available to the Kings at this time. When Viktor Arvidsson came back last week against Minnesota, it came in place of forward Alex Turcotte, who left the game before with an injury. Turcotte did not travel with the team and is still unavailable, day-to-day, at this time. The Kings have forward Arthur Kaliyev available, but he’s the only extra player for the team until Grundstrom comes back. When that happens, the Kings could be forced into a 12F / 6D look, with cap constraints and AHL eligibility factoring into who is able to be assigned to the Ontario Reign, in order to free up space for Grundstrom. Not that they don’t want that look, but it might be a hand-forced situation. Still a bit off from that, as we’ve seen in the past lots can change, but it’s something to keep an eye on when looking at how things could shake out.

Teammates Talk Arvidsson
The Kings have been thrilled to have Viktor Arvidsson back over the last segment of games.

7-0-0 with a player in the lineup will do that for you, but what Arvidsson has done for the Kings is slot everything in place up front. It feels like, now, everyone has a defined place in the lineup and a defined role. It’s the closest the Kings have been all season to having everyone available, with Grundstrom close to a return of his own to complete the puzzle.

“I think we can be dangerous like that, Arvy hasn’t been with us all year, which I think has hurt us a little bit,” forward Phillip Danault said. “Arvy is a dedicated player, very good offensively, solid defensively as well, so we’ve definitely missed him. I like to think of him as our good luck charm.”

Danault knows Arvidsson as well as anybody does, having played with him for the better part of their respective time with the Kings organization. Arvidsson and Danault have played more than 1,500 minutes together at 5-on-5 since they joined the organization, making Danault by far Arvidsson’s most regular linemate, even if they’re on separate lines right now.

The appreciation for what number 33 brings, though, goes much further than just Danault.

His energy, playmaking and commitment at both ends of the ice are infectious with the group and his ability as a player has clearly made the team better. Without Arvidsson, the Kings rotated lines more regularly and frequently, we saw lines that hadn’t really played together before. Regardless of where he plays, though, it’s clear that he’s making an impact on the game simply by playing. Those around him have lauded the impact he’s brought on the team.

Quinton Byfield – We all love Arvy here, on and off the ice. Off the ice, he’s a great guy, he does everything right, he’s a lot of fun. On the ice, you see the plays he makes, offensively, he generates so many chances for us. It’s fun to play with him and fun to watch him play.

Blake Lizotte – Everyone knows how good of a player Arvy is. Our whole lineup, basically, up front is lefties and you don’t always think about that but having a righty on the power play is huge. He’s such a skilled player, I think he had five shots in the first period [of his first game back]. Didn’t take him long to get back in. He’s a huge piece of our team and we’re glad to have him back.

Trevor Moore – He’s a really good player, he adds so much depth for our team. He’s so good on the power play and you see him out there, he’s a ball of energy. He’s huge for us.

Matt Roy – It’s big, he’s a big energy guy, he plays with a lot of emotion and has a lot of skill, he loves making plays. I think that’s something that we were missing, so it’s great to have him.

Arvidsson and the Kings will look to continue their impact tomorrow evening, when they visit the Edmonton Oilers for what they’ll certainly expect will be another game with a playoff-type feel to it. More on that in tomorrow’s game preview!

NCAA Lookahead
Additionally, Insiders, Jack Jablonski has a preview up of the NCAA Tournament, which gets underway tomorrow with three LA Kings prospects participating.

Jack Hughes (Boston University), Jared Wright (Denver University) and Kenny Connors (University of Massachusetts) have all qualified with their respective clubs, with the tournament getting underway tomorrow. Hughes will take on RIT in the first round, while Wright and Connors will square off against each other, guaranteeing that at least one Kings prospect will advance. Connors and Wright get underway tomorrow at 11 AM Pacific on ESPN2, while Hughes begins his tournament three hours later, at 2 PM Pacific, on ESPNU.

More from Jack here on the three LAK prospects!

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