11/23 Practice: Current Lineup + Goal & Metrics for Walker, Top Line Products, McLellan at SV%
Check back this morning, Insiders!
Just a quick one from today’s practice in El Segundo as the Kings took the ice today before Friday’s game against San Jose. The team is expected to practice tomorrow as well, but with the Thanksgiving break, we’ll see what that skate looks like. The team is expected to travel to San Jose following that skate later in the day.
First things first, here’s how the group lined up during this morning’s practice:
Fiala – Kopitar – Kempe
Moore – Danault – Arvidsson
Vilardi – Lizotte – basic current
Anderson-Dolan – Copper – Kaliyev
Defenses: Anderson, Doughty, Durzi, Edler, Moverare, Roy, Walker
Fast / Petersen
There are no apparent changes from yesterday’s group, although we did see a return to the group in defenseman Sean Durzi. Yesterday, the Kings only had one healthy, available option in forward Lias Andersson. Durzi is dealing with a lower-body injury and is still considered day-to-day at this point. It doesn’t feel far for him, though. Striker Alex Iafallo is making progress with his own return but has yet to rejoin the squad for training. Defenseman Brandt Clarke still holds a roster spot as he continues his conditioning loan with AHL-Ontario, and is expected to play his fourth game at the AHL level tonight with the Reign.
Where that leaves the Kings, here and now, is without a ton of short-term flexibility. The Kings could insert the versatile Andersson into the lineup, who can play both center and wing, but at least for the next few days, as the situations with Durzi and Clarke are resolved, the options beyond that remain at the whim of the your status .
A few quick hits from today’s practice, with stick touches going to Jesse Cohen, who was on site today to take locker room audio.
Walk this way
Good to see Sean Walker got one last night, isn’t it?
It’s been a long time for a player who hasn’t scored in an NHL game since the end of the COVID-shortened 2020-21 season. Walker scored a breakaway goal in that game, the only goal the Kings scored during two season-ending losses against Colorado. Walker had two assists but no goals before suffering a season-ending knee injury in the sixth game of last season.
Walker has moved around the lineup a bit this season, starting in left with Matt Roy but eventually settling in right with Alex Edler and now Jacob Moverare on the third pairing. Walker’s underlying metrics have been neutral, with Corsi trending above 50 percent and top-quality chances just below that. Over his last 10 games, however, Walker has found himself on the wrong side of high-danger chances just once, and on the wrong side of both shot attempts and scoring chances just twice. He’s gotten more and more comfortable and his on-ice metrics are a testament to that, with goals for and goals against coming in exactly on par. A sure rebound as he has gotten more and more comfortable since his injury.
Last night, Walker was rewarded for that uptick in play, with the tying goal early in the third period. It was a long one for Walker, who hit the crossbar in the first period and has been getting more and more offensive looks of late. Walker had a season-high seven shot attempts last night, as well as season-highs in scoring chances (5) and high-danger chances (4). His goal looked like the culmination of his increased chances that he is offering, which is a good sign for the Blue boss moving forward.
Hear from Walker today, talking about his work recently, when it was installed.
Front line shooting
“I thought Anze and Kempe had maybe one of their best games of late and that’s probably because Kevin was there, helping them out. When I say that, I’m not disparaging Gabriel Vilardi’s game, he’s been really good. Just a different mix tonight, a different energy on that line and I thought that line gave us a game that maybe we haven’t seen in a little bit.”
That was Todd McLellan after yesterday’s game as he shared his thoughts on his top offensive unit.
The Kings made a major lineup change heading into last night’s game, with Kevin Fiala rejoining the lineup alongside Anze Kopitar and Adrian Kempe. The results were immediate, with Fiala scoring the opening goal 36 seconds into the game and contributing a pair of assists to the Kings’ other two goals. When he originally changed that line when they first played together, McLellan felt they outdid each other too often. With Kopitar being the center of the line, that means being outmatched against top-tier competition, due to his two-way nature.
Last night, though, it wasn’t a problem. Although one of their goals came on the power play, the top unit was involved in all three Kings goals on the night, including Walker’s third goal. The stat line at the end of the night read eight scoring chances for and three against in 5-on-5, the Kings’ best metric from an offensive unit. Looking at his game record, +6 was the clubhouse season leader in scoring chances controlled and was just one shy of that mark last night.
Listen to forward Adrian Kempe below as he talks about the new-yet-old look of his line.
Admittedly, I still haven’t had a chance to hear about Todd McLellan’s availability as of today. So I’ll look into it and maybe add again.
An additional TM quote from last night though, talking about save percentage and how he thinks it applies to the team concept, not just the two players playing in net. The question gave these perimeters, with which McLellan agreed,
“I would say there is concern, yes, but you also qualified it as I would, that when we mishandle a puck at the blue line and give up a breakaway, that’s a very good save. When our goalie misses a stick for whatever the reason, someone breaks his stick and he has to pounce, it’s a very good save. [Petersen] he made a really good one on Panarin in the first period, so he’s making some good saves, Jonathan too, but we’ve got to work as a group on that save percentage. It’s not just the goalies, but as a group we have to get that number up.
Thanks for listening and follow along! I wasn’t at the skate today, a rare day to be able to spend with family on the east coast, so big thanks again to Jesse Cohen for filling in for some interviews in the room! Probably a light day tomorrow here at LAKI before returning to game coverage on Friday morning.
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