Kings recall Carl Grundstrom off conditioning loan + Aaron Dell added from AHL-Ontario

Two roster moves this morning, Insiders, as the LA Kings get set to host their first practice of the 2023 postseason.

The Kings recalled forward Carl Grundstrom from his conditioning loan with the AHL’s Ontario Reign, though he remains on long-term injured reserve. Additionally, the Kings recalled goaltender Aaron Dell from AHL-Ontario. Both players are scheduled to practice with the Kings this morning at Toyota Sports Performance Center.

Grundstrom has appeared in 236 career NHL games, all with the Kings, including 50 during the 2023-24 season. Prior to his injury, Grundstrom was on track to break career bests in games played (57), but ultimately fell short as he missed more than two months of action with a lower-body injury. He certainly could have done the same in goals and assists as well. Dell is a veteran of 130 NHL games, as recently as the four games he played with the San Jose Sharks during the 2022-23 season. Dell has played for San Jose, New Jersey and Buffalo at the NHL level throughout his career and has a 7-4-1 record, with a .914 save percentage and a 2.57 goals-against average with Ontario this season.

Instant Analysis
In Grundstrom, it marks the latest step of progress towards his ultimate return from the lower-body injury that has kept him out of NHL action since mid-February. Grundstrom suffered his injury against the Buffalo Sabres on February 13 and has not appeared in a game with the Kings since. We started to see signs of his return in late-March, as Grundstrom re-joined the team in a non-contact jersey, eventually progressing into full-contact participation. His next step was a conditioning assignment to the Reign, where he collected two points (1-1-2) from two games played. Grundstrom played big minutes in those games, skating on the top forward line alongside T.J. Tynan and Samuel Fagemo. Now he’s back with the big club.

Prior to his injury, Grundstrom was an NHL regular with this Kings team. I don’t believe the Kings ran with 11 forwards and 7 defensemen during his time while healthy. His most regular linemates were Blake Lizotte and Trevor Lewis, who built an identity as the team’s fourth line, embracing that role and playing to it. In just shy of 200 minutes together, they controlled nearly 57 percent of shot attempts, above 57 percent of scoring chances and more than 59 percent of high-danger chances. No guarantee that’s where Jim Hiller turns back to, but a line that delivered especially early in the season. It’s also a line that embodies more of what a traditional “fourth line” represents and can play to that in a playoff game.

Grundstrom also has some playoff production to his name. In the 2022 postseason, when Viktor Arvidsson was injured before Game 1 and the Kings shuffled the lines after lopsided defeats in Games 2 and 3, Grundstrom was handed an elevated role before Game 4 and delivered two goals and an assist in a 4-0 win over Edmonton. He scored again in Game 6, tying the game early in the third period. He posted four points (3-1-4) from six games in total, missing one due to injury.

The Kings aren’t necessarily relying on Grundstrom for goals and assists. At his best, Grundstrom is an honest player who works hard, plays a North/South game and finishes his checks. He’s capable of forechecking and you know the type of game you’ll get from him on most nights. He does have that offensive pop in his game too, though, with a quick release on his wrist shot and an ability to beat goaltenders clean when he gets the space. He’s scored 20 in total over the last two seasons and his 0.94 goals per/60 ranks third amongst Kings skaters with at least 100 games played in that span. Good to see you, Carl. See where he lines up here in a bit as practice gets underway.

Regarding Dell, his role is more carved out. Dell will likely serve as the team’s third goaltender, with Cam Talbot and David Rittich assuming the top two spots heading into the postseason. Dell is a pretty reliable option to have right now for this position. He’s got the aforementioned 134 NHL games and he’s played in four playoff games throughout his career, all entering in relief, so he’s comfortable in a backup role if needed. Dell signed an AHL contract with Ontario in January, after starting for Team Canada at the Spengler Cup in Switzerland, and was later inked to an NHL contract in March, likely with a situation like this in mind.

Dell has split time with promising young goaltender Erik Portillo in Ontario this season. Both have performed admirably, and should Dell be needed at that level, he’ll be available for the Calder Cup Playoffs as well as with the Kings. Portillo has been tasked as the playoff starter at that level, however, and the Kings want him to seize that opportunity to close out a strong rookie season. Good opportunity for him. For Dell, he’s been in these situations before and he’ll be an important piece for the Kings on practice days especially, as they prepare for the playoffs. Should circumstance dictate more than that role, he’ll be ready.

Kings are on the ice here in a bit for their first team practice before the postseason. The Kings will also skate tomorrow before departing for Edmonton later in the afternoon. Interesting to see how the team lines up, after making changes for Game 82 and Grundstrom nearing a return.

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