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Injury updates on replacements Vilardi & Grundstrom + McLellan talks and training notes Wednesday

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Training Day, Part Two.

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The Kings hit the ice today for another practice day here in El Segundo, their second straight skate here at the Toyota Sports Performance Center.

The biggest news of the day, if you will, came in the form of individuals not present. Forwarders Karl Grundstrom and Gabi Vilardi did not skate with the Kings today. I didn’t see exactly what happened, but Grundstrom left yesterday’s practice a bit early and didn’t join the group today on the ice, as Todd McClellan confirmed he was injured during those practices. And it seemed that Velarde finished training yesterday, although he did not skate with the group today.

Bear McClellan, Velarde is the day-to-day, while Grundstrom is out for the long haul.

“Gronnie injured himself in practice yesterday, and he’ll go out even after such a long ride, he won’t make that trip. Gabe is just a day to day.”

With Grundstrom ready to miss the clock, and Vilardi on a daily basis, that would leave the Kings with only 17 or 18 healthy skaters heading into tomorrow, which is minimal at best to make a full roster, assuming Vilardi can play. AHL-Ontario is currently on the road in Colorado, ending a game winning streak this evening in Loveland against the Eagles. Ontario returns home tomorrow, before the Kings host Dallas, and the NHL club is set to depart for a six-game road trip on Friday.

Even if Velarde is healthy, you should expect to see at least one roster move every now and then, as the Kings are unlikely to head east with just six defenses or 12 forwards. McClellan said the same thing today, noting that the recalls will come between now and Friday.

“Yes, we will,” McClellan said when asked. “We’re starting to sprint, as you saw today in practice, we’ve trained quite a bit. We want the guys to play this time of year, the Reign play really well and the guys get reps there, but we can’t afford to go to the Eastern Seaboard.” With what we have. There will be more dead bodies to come.”

With a six-game trip on the horizon and the team leaving on Friday, naturally the Kings wouldn’t bring just 18 skaters on board, McClellan said. The trip is very interestingly structured, with two sets of back-to-back games, but also two sets of two days off.

The Kings want to strike a balance between keeping a fully stocked roster, while also acknowledging that those who join the team may be younger players who need repeat game to stay sharp and develop. While it is a long haul, with long journeys between home and where the Kings are, its structure allows the organization to make adjustments as they go, if players become too healthy or if the team wants to switch personnel.

“We’re going to have different needs, at different times, against different lineups,” McClellan added. “So, when we go on the trip it’s not as efficient, but we can turn players in and out, that’s not a big deal. We have two games in a row, which leads to a two-day break after those games, so bringing a player in and out of LA, or wherever Where the Ontario Reign play, it wouldn’t be a big deal in those in-between days.”

Since it’s about replacing Grundstrom’s kit, or maybe Vilardi’s, McLellan called it situation dependent.

Vilardi is a regular lineup in the third line with Blake Lizotte and Kevin Fiala, a line that has formed quickly since he reunited in Colorado in late December. With only 11 forwards on the ice today, it’s hard to see how the Kings can adapt and how that adjustment might change in the short term and long term. Grundstrom has only played twice this month, including once due to an illness of Victor Arvidsson, but has proven throughout his career that he is a skilled and productive player when joining the lineup, making a valuable piece for the Kings. He also brings a skill set unlike most with his strong physical style of hockey.

“It depends on the individual, where he plays, who he plays with, the next opponent and how they match up, especially when we’re at home, when we’re on the road, we don’t have that luxury anyway,” McClellan said. “If you take Grunny, his value is in some of the things he did really well and we’ll endeavor to replace that in his minutes, in place, as often as we can. Sometimes you don’t have that component and you have to replace it with something else, but that’s how we look at it.”

Worth observing tomorrow to see how the situation develops.

Application Notes –
Yesterday, Todd McClellan pointed out that a lot of focus comes from “long” skiing. While the Kings aren’t usually eager to share specific training details, he noted that today’s ski had specific pivot points, too, as I did yesterday. In the coming days, McClellan maintained that this break could be an opportunity for the Kings to work on certain things they may not have had time for during the fast-paced start to the season. He is pleased with the way the group has been able to do this over the past two days.

“When we looked at training, we put foot on the gas yesterday and we went, it was like playing a game, and our team needed that,” he explained. “Today, the numbers were shorter and faster, but we covered all three areas, we covered a lot of special teams missions, things that we don’t usually start working on, like 6-on-5, 5-on-6, that kind of thing. It’s time well put to good use. It’s easy to say now, we’ll see the results as we go forward, we’ll have to start the engine again.”

Without Vilardi and Grundstsrom, the strip combinations were scattered and as McLellan pointed out, the team did a lot of work in private teams, even throwing away the jersey colors in an unbalanced way. When full line combos were used it looked like different players were skating with different players to account for only 11 forwards. We’ll get a better indication of alignment versus Dallas come tomorrow, as we get a better sense of potential Velarde availability. Assuming we won’t see any changes among the defencemen, with all six available to them, the forwards are definitely worth keeping an eye on.

Looking at the Dallas game, the Kings will – for once – walk out on a team with four days off and their opponent will be the team that plays three games in four nights. You might think it’s a massive advantage, but teams with 4+ rest days this season are 34-26-3, which is 0.563 wins. Not bad numbers, but far from a dominant total. McClellan noted that while the four-day break isn’t that significant, it’s still enough to see a team break away from that game mentality.

“It’s only four days, but remember how hard it is to get things done the next game, you can’t just put your gear on and go back to playing again,” McClellan added. “Dallas will play three games in four nights and sometimes a team that comes in and plays back-to-back, they’re ready to play, they haven’t even forgotten what it was like to play and we’re trying to remember. It’s going to be a challenge for us in the beginning.”

Morning ski coverage to follow up tomorrow morning and we’ll go from there!

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