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11/23 Practice – Day Alignment + Walker Target & Metrics, Top Line Producers, McLellan on SV%

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Again this morning, Insiders!

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Just a quick rundown from today’s practice in El Segundo, where the Kings took to the ice earlier today before Friday’s game against San Jose. The team is expected to practice tomorrow as well, but with Thanksgiving weekend we’ll see what that sled looks like. The team is expected to travel to San Jose after that sled later in the day.

First things first, here’s how the group lined up during this morning’s practice –

Fiala – Kopitar – Kempe
Moore-Danault-Arvidson
Vilardi – Lesotho – main stream
Anderson Dolan – Copper – Kaliev
Anderson

Defenders: Anderson, Dottie, Dorsey, Adler, Maurier, Roy, and Walker

Fast / Petersen

No obvious changes from yesterday’s group, although we did see a return to the group in defender Shaun Dorsey. Yesterday, the Kings only had one option, healthy and available forward Lias Andersson. Durzi has a lower body injury and is still considered day in and day out at this time. It doesn’t feel out of reach for him, though. Forward Alex Yavalo is stepping up after his return, but has yet to rejoin the group to train. Defenseman Brandt Clarke still has a spot on the roster, as he continues his adaptive loan with AHL-Ontario, and is expected to play Game 4 in the AHL this evening with the Reign.

Where that leaves the Kings, here and now, without a lot of flexibility in the short term. The Kings will likely field the versatile Anderson, who can play both center and wing, but at least for the next few days, as positions are arranged with Dorsey and Clarke, the options behind that remain at the whim of their situation.

A few fast hitters from today’s practice, as the taps go to Jesse Cohen, who was on site today to sound off the locker room.

Walk this way
Good to see Sean Walker get one last night, right?

It’s been a long time for a player not to score in an NHL game since the end of the 2020-21 season, COVID. Walker scored a breakaway goal in that game, the only goal the Kings scored during their two season-ending losses against Colorado. Walker provided assists, but no goals, before suffering a season-ending knee injury during the sixth game of last season.

Walker has been moved around the lineup a bit this season, starting on the left side with Matt Roy, but eventually settling on the right side with Alex Adler and now Jacob Mauvier in the third pair. Walker’s underlying metrics were pretty neutral, with Corsi trending just over 50 percent and top-quality prospects heading straight down. But over the last 10 games, Walker has found himself on the wrong side of high-risk opportunities only once, and on the wrong side of shot attempts and scoring opportunities only twice. He’s getting more and more comfortable and his on-ice metrics are a glimpse of that, with goals for and against absolutely equal. A slight increase for sure, as he’s now more comfortable coming out of his injury.

Last night, Walker was rewarded for that height of play, with the tying goal early in the third period. It was a long time coming for Walker, who hit the crossbar in the first half and has been looking more attacking lately. Walker scored a career-high seven shot attempts yesterday night, as well as season-highs in scoring chances (5) and high-risk chances (4). His goal seemed to be the culmination of the increased chances he provides, which is a good sign moving forward.

Hear Walker from earlier today, discussing his play recently after settling down.

First line launch
“I thought Anze and Kempe might have had one of their best games lately and maybe it’s down to the fact that Kevin was there, helped them out. When I say that, I’m not insulting Gabriele Vilardi’s play, he was really good. Just a different mix tonight, different energy on That line and I think that line gave us a game that we might not have seen in a little while.”

It was Todd McClellan after yesterday’s game, as he shared his thoughts on his best offensive unit.

The Kings made one major lineup change in last night’s game, with Kevin Fiala returning to the line alongside Anze Kopitar and Adrian Kempe. The results were immediate, with Fiala scoring the opening goal 36 seconds into the match, and contributing a pair of assists to King’s other two goals. When this originally changed the line-up when they were first playing together, McClellan felt they were too overpowered. With Kopitar being the center of the line, that means it has an edge over it against higher-level competition, due to its two-way nature.

But last night was not an issue. Although one of their goals came on a power play, the first unit was involved in all three Kings goals of the evening, including the third goal that came from Walker. The baseline at the end of the night had eight scoring opportunities and three-on-5, the best metrics the Kings have ever had from an offensive unit. Looking at their playing record, +6 has been the club’s season leader when it comes to controlling scoring chances and last night was just one behind that number.

Hear from striker Adrian Kempe below, as he discusses the new and old format of his line.

Admittedly, I didn’t get a chance to hear about Todd McClellan’s presence yet earlier today. So I’ll dissect that and maybe add again.

However, there’s an additional quote from TM from last night, talking about save percentage and how he thinks it applies to the team concept, not just the two players playing in the net. The question gave those circumferences to which McClellan agreed,

“I would say there is a concern, yes, but you also rehabilitated it as I do, that when we mishandle a puck on the blue line and give up a breakaway, it’s a very good thing. When a goalkeeper loses a stick for whatever reason someone breaks the stick and they have to He has to dive into goal, that’s very good. [Petersen] He did a really good job on Panarine in the first half, so he made some good saves, and so did Jonathan, but we as a group have to work on that save percentage. It’s not just about goalkeepers, but as a group we have to raise that number.

Thanks for listening and following! I wasn’t skiing today – a rare day I can spend with an East Coast family – so big thanks again to Jesse Cohen for filling in some in-room interviews! It’s probably going to be a light day tomorrow here at LAKI before we get back to our coverage of the game on Friday morning.

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