Joe Piskula has cleared waivers and been assigned to Manchester. The roster is now down to 27 players. From what I can infer, from what Terry Murray has said in recent days, the roster should be set no later than Monday.
Wojtek Wolski gave the Avalanche the lead in Las Vegas with 8:53 left in the first period. His attempted pass in front of the net got deflected back to him, and he beat Jonathan Quick, who had slid over to play the pass.
The Kings tied it with 1:22 remaining. Jack Johnson took a quick shot from the left point and Alexander Frolov, skating in front, tipped it in. Wayne Simmonds picked up an assist as well.
Nick and Daryl’s commentary had the Kings playing an aggressive game and getting the better of the chances, with both goalies well tested at various times.
What seemed somewhat unlikely not so long ago now seems to be on the verge of reality: Rich Clune, fourth-line winger. It would be a good move. Clune is basically Sean Avery without the Sean Avery attitude. He protects his teammates, he works hard every shift and he’s young and motivated to make an impact in the NHL. There’s probably not much offensive potential there, but as we’ve said before, if you’re looking for offense from your fourth line, you’re in trouble anyway. What we can’t predict, as Terry Murray mentions below, is how Clune will react against real NHL players in real NHL games. Here’s what Murray said about Clune’s camp to date…
MURRAY: “I think Clune is making a lot of noise for himself. He has really battled and competed hard. He’s been jumping in there. In the last game he played, he got involved a couple times, and that’s who he is. He’s a gritty guy. He’s in your face, he’s a middleweight guy that probably is a pretty prevelant player around the league today. The big guys, the heavyweight guys, they feel like, `I can’t do that to this guy on the other team, because it looks like I’m beating up on a smaller player.’
“So to have a middleweight, I think it’s a nice thing to have. A guy like Clune, in particular, if he is to be on the team he has to be able to contribute in other areas, in terms of playing the game. He has to play special teams, he has to become a penalty killer. There’s just an urgency that anyone in that job description has to do other things, and not just competing against other players that are similar on the other team.”
There’s another part, however, to being that fourth-line agitator. Avery, for all his faults, was a valuable player when he could stay out of the penalty box himself but also draw opponents into taking bad penalties through his feisty play. That’s a delicate balance, particularly for a young player such as Clune without any NHL experience. I asked Murray whether playing with that discipline had been a topic of discussion with Clune.
MURRAY: “You know, it hasn’t been, because I don’t want to take anything away from him. I want to keep the emotion and keep the energy, and maybe (have him be) a little bit reckless at times. I want to see what it is he does bring on his own, and then we can fine-tune it if necessary from there. The one thing with him, unfortunately from last year, he just hasn’t got a lot of pro games under his belt. So, staying in the game and playing a structured system, that’s important for us, as coaches, to be able to evaluate him from that side of it. But overall he has had a good camp.”
Here’s what Terry Murray said today about the final decisions the Kings must make in order to get to the opening-night roster…
MURRAY: “It’s going to come down to splitting hairs here at the end, I think, with a couple of the decisions. To me, that’s a great thing. Last year it was very easy, in most cases. We were looking for players and we ended up having three rookies coming in and having an impact on our team. This year, with a year of experience in the minors for a lot of these guys, and the off-ice program and just the maturing and understanding that the culture has changed here, that there’s an attitude change and everybody has brought themselves ready to play the right way, it’s making it more difficult but that’s a good thing to have.”
It was only last week when we discussed here whether Teddy Purcell might end up being the key to the Kings’ season. If anything, that feeling has only become stronger. As the Kings’ second-line left wing, Purcell not only needs to show that he can be a consistent NHL player but that he can score enough to justify second-line minutes and play physical enough to satisfy his coaches and general manager. It’s a lot to ask — particularly of someone who has played only 50 NHL games — so I asked Terry Murray if it was safe to say that Purcell’s play was a key to the season…
MURRAY: “To me, he’s right at the top of the list. Maybe not the very top, but he’s certainly a priority for us, to have Teddy Purcell play well and play an important role for our hockey club. He’s a very gifted guy. He’s got incredible skill and playmaking ability. We’ve discussed this before; that’s where I see him, on the left side where he can be a real good playmaker with Stoll and Brownie. I know that those two guys are going to work hard for him also, and find him opportunities to be the shooter. He’s a guy who can finish pretty well.
“He has adjusted well to the left side. I think his play has been pretty good from the start of the training camp. In one of the (preseason) games, I thought he was the best player on the ice for both teams. He was just playing tremendous hockey, playing very competitively and doing the things we talked about many times last year, as far as board play. It’s a courageous thing that you have to do sometimes, when you’re playing along the boards, and that’s where I will keep going at Teddy. He’s got to give us that same kind of look in every game that he plays.”
The question is, do you think he can do it?
Fairly uneventful morning, except to note that Raitis Ivanans returned to practice today, as part of the “red” line with Peter Harrold, Brad Richardson and Brayden Schenn (they took turns going in and out of drills) and that there were no players missing from camp. All other lines remained the same as yesterday.
Practice today looked much sharper than it did on Thursday. Drills were crisp and the players seemed to be having fun, with a lot of joking back and forth. Doesn’t mean a whole lot in the grand scheme, except that Terry Murray called it one of the best practices so far, which I suppose is noteworthy since he was not pleased yesterday.
The team is getting ready to head to Las Vegas, and will return Saturday night.
Some notes and quotes to follow soon…
With eight days before the start of the season, and the training-camp roster continuing to shrink, there’s something unavoidable: Brayden Schenn is still here. Not only that, by all accounts he’s performing well in games and practice and generally making a strong impression.
So I decided to ask Terry Murray if Schenn had a realistic chance to make the team…
MURRAY: “I think we’ll just keep moving on that one and see how things work out. … He’s not going to play in Vegas. I’m going to give him the night off. But he will be here to practice and continue to work at his game.”
I then asked Murray about his philosophy about players in that situation. You’ll remember that Moller and Simmonds made last year’s team, but only with the understanding that they were in the NHL to play significant minutes. Would Murray, I asked, be reluctant to keep Schenn if it meant playing him only in a limited role?
MURRAY: “Philosophically, my personal opinion on that is that you don’t want to have a young, 18-year-old player — and that’s what we’re dealing with here — sitting in that `fourth-line role,’ playing a minimal amount of time and no critical situations, when he could go play a dominant role and be very effective player and develop his game.
“I went through that, way back, if you remember a player — and he’s still playing — Dainius Zubrus in Philly. He came out of Tier 2 juniors as an 18-year-old. There was a discussion on him. He started on the fourth line, but moved up very quickly though, but it’s not ideal for development.”
This, to me, is a pretty obvious call. The Kings send Schenn to junior for one more year, at least. He has been able to build some good confidence in camp, and make a good impression, but a) He’s 18 (and he just TURNED 18) and b) the Kings, with Kopitar, Stoll, Handzus and perhaps Lewis, Richardson and Harrold, aren’t lacking for centers. There’s no need to take an unnecessary risk in this situation.
It was something you don’t see very often… Terry Murray stopping a practice drill, standing at center ice lecturing his players about substandard performance. Murray’s on-ice demeanor is typically low-key, but early in practice today, he was clearly irritated by what he perceived to be the Kings’ inability to competently complete a simple drill. The talk lasted a couple minutes, and afterward players resumed the same drill. After practice, Murray talked about the need for mental focus.
MURRAY: “You get near the end of the training camp as a player — and I went through it too — and you want to just get yourself going. But you have to have awareness of that. It’s important that you approach every one of these games and practices the right way and get focused and prepare yourself to start the season. That was kind of the message at the start of the practice here today. The conversation that I had was, `This has great meaning here, guys.’ We have to make sure that, not only physically, but in terms of structure and system and emotionally, you have to be ready to play. That’s your responsibility as a player, to come into the games and work at it to get yourself to the right point, where you can hit the ground running at the start of the season. We need some more work.”
Question: Is that the point you tried to make when you stopped practice to talk to them?
MURRAY: “It’s focus and execution. That was just a very fundamental warm-up drill, 7-on-0, passing the puck and regroup, and passes were missing sticks by four, five, six feet. This is the National Hockey League, and there’s a fundamental that you need, the focus to be able to execute with the puck or without it. I thought it got better, but again, there are still areas that need to be improved on.”
Here’s how the Kings are expected to skate in Saturday’s “Frozen Fury” game in Las Vegas against Colorado:
Quick is expected to play all three periods. As for the rest of the lineup, it’s not a stretch to think that’s exactly how it could look for the Oct. 3 season opener. There’s still an Ivanans vs. Westgarth issue, but if the Kings are looking for some toughness on the other wing, it might be looking pretty good for Rich Clune…
After practice today, Sean O’Donnell discussed, in detail, the incident in Kansas City with the Islanders’ Matt Martin that led to O’Donnell’s suspension (three preseason games, two regular-season games). O’Donnell explains his side of the incident, and what led up to it…
O’DONNELL: “That’s the main thing, the leading up to it. You look at an isolated play and it doesn’t look good, but when you’re watching the game… They had talked us about `head shots.’ Not even necessarily elbows, but just shots, unnecessary blows to the head when the guy is vulnerable. I felt like there were a couple times earlier in the game where they had some guys, who were trying to make a name — whatever, they’re trying to make the team — but I felt like Drew and some of our other players had targets on their backs. They were hitting them pretty hard. They were legal, but they were hard, hard hits.
“Nothing was really said. A couple times, I spoke to one of the guys and challenged him to a fight. Raitis challenged a guy and obviously Westgarth was doing his best. (The Islanders) didn’t really want to. Then I saw Martin hit a couple people. Like I said, not dirty but questionable, enough to raise your eyebrows. Then I saw him coming on Drew and I yelled over, `Heads up.’ Drew got out of the way, but I felt that at the last second, instead of just missing his check, he came up with his shoulder and clipped Drew in the chin. I saw Drew’s head go back and so I went over there.
“I probably should have given him a little slash on the ankles and then fought him, but I didn’t. I reacted. There’s a part of me that feels kind of paternal toward Drew. Maybe I overreacted a little bit, but I went over there and I wanted to initiate a fight. I gave him a cross-check, and in my mind I gave him a cross-check right by the shoulder, in the upper chest. I skated quite a ways. I skated probably 15, 20 feet. When I did hit him with the cross-check, my momentum carried him over and that’s what knocked him over and he crumpled down to the ice. You can see where I hit him, and where he ended up was about 10 feet away. So it was more like, I hit him and we kind of slid.
“There was no film. I felt that, at no time, did my stick make contact with any part of his head area. The refs felt that when I hit him, it (came up) and I got him. There’s no tape. The refs felt it was one way and I felt it was the other way.”
Helene Elliott of the Times relayed Dean Lombardi’s reaction to O’Donnell, in which Lombardi expressed disappointment that O’Donnell would lose two games’ worth of salary and jokingly hinted that he wished he could pay O’Donnell to be a scout in those games.
“How about an extension for a year?” O’Donnell said with a laugh. “I’m not ready to start scouting yet.”