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12/27 Preview – Gavrikov Activated, “Penciled In” + Coming Off The Break & Byfield on THIS Goal

WHO: Los Angeles Kings (19-7-4) vs. San Jose Sharks (9-22-3)
WHAT: NHL REGULAR SEASON GAME
WHEN: Wednesday December 27 at 7:00 p.m. Pacific
OR: Crypto.com Arena – Los Angeles, California
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: Bally Sports West – AUDIO – iHeart Radio – TWITTER: @DooleyLAK & @LAKings

TONIGHT’S MATCH: The Kings are back in action, fresh off the NHL break, as they begin a 3-for-4 streak to close out 2023.

FACE-TO-FACE: Forwards Anze Kopitar (1-1-2) and Kevin Fiala (0-2-2) led the Kings last time out against San Jose, a 4-1 Kings victory earlier this month. Kopitar’s 70 career points against the Sharks are the most among all active NHL skaters. Forward Trevor Lewis also scored in this game, giving him points in five of his last six games against San Jose.

VITALS OF KINGS: The Kings held a morning skate with the entire team today, following a series of three days off for the NHL holidays.

Goaltender David Rittich was the first out this morning, making him the projected starter in net tonight against the Sharks. Rittich stopped 15 of 16 shots he faced against San Jose earlier this season, earning his first victory as a King. All-time, Rittich is 3-2-2 against the Sharks, with a .892 save percentage and a 3.03 goals-against average.

The footage from today’s morning workout is below:

Byfield–Kopitar–Kempe
Fiala–Danault–Moore
Laferrière – Dubois – Kaliyev
Grundström–Lizotte–Lewis
Anderson Dolan

Anderson-Doughty
Gavrikov–Roy
Englund-Spence
Moving – Bjornfot

Rittich
Talbot

The Kings appear ready to make a roster move, with defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov set to return from injured reserve. According to Todd McLellan, Gavrikov is “committed” to playing tonight, pending conversations with the team’s training staff before the game. Gavrikov was officially activated from injured reserve earlier today, indicating his availability for tonight. We’ll wait until the warmup to know for sure, but it certainly looks like he’ll be ready to go tonight.

“It’s penciled in right now,” McLellan said. “I haven’t checked with the training staff, but I fully expect him to be there.”

Beyond that, the Kings have defensemen Tobias Bjornfot and Jacob Moverare, as well as forward Jaret Anderson-Dolan, should additional changes be needed between now and tonight’s game. Moverare was assigned to the AHL on December 24 and recalled earlier in the day, completing the Kings’ 23-man active roster.

SHARK VITALS: San Jose has lost five straight games tonight, most recently a 7-4 loss to Vancouver before their three-day break.

I expect to see goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen between the pipes tonight for the Sharks, coming out of the break. Kahkonen made 35 saves on 38 shots when these teams met earlier in December. Kahkonen has now faced the Kings six times in his NHL career, bringing with him a 2-4-0 record, with a .914 save percentage and a 2.69 goals-against average.

According to Sheng Peng of SJ Hockey Now, here’s how the Sharks lined up this morning at Crypto.com Arena:

Only Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon had more assists during the month of December than San Jose forward Mikael Granlund. In the same streak, forward Tomas Hertl has eight goals, tied for third in the league. Hertl is also tied for third in the NHL in goals against the Kings over the last four seasons, with nine, dating back to the 2020-21 campaign.

Remarks –
Coming out of break
“We know what we have to do, we know how to do it, we just have to get back to it very quickly. A three-day break is not dramatic, we shouldn’t have forgotten how to play, it’s just about getting back to it as quickly as possible.

It was Todd McLellan this morning, talking about what he expects from his band tonight, early on, after a three-day break.

Now, it’s not like a three-day break is anything wild or crazy, they’ve happened throughout the first three months of the season. This one is a little different though, with no practice time and a vacation in the middle, a time when the mind is rightfully diverted from the game of hockey and time spent with friends, family and loved ones.

So, the Kings held their longest morning practice of the season earlier today at the Toyota Sports Performance Center. Typically, the Kings’ morning practice is all about spin and burn. They get what they need, sometimes for just 10 to 15 minutes, and go about it. The entire group was on the ice today for more than 20 minutes, with some players for a half hour or more. All by design, as the Kings look to recreate some of the situations they’ll see tonight and tomorrow.

“We wanted them to handle the puck in traffic,” McLellan added. “If you bump into the boards a little bit, take the pucks off the walls, maybe bump and crash a little bit, just to get back to it and for them to understand that it’s coming and it’s going to happen quickly for over six years. periods. »

This preparation started last night from the players’ point of view.

Even though it was a mandatory day off for the team, Adrian Kempe noted that he took some of the responsibility upon himself to begin his preparation for the match a day early, just to make shake things up last night at home. He took a longer warm-up than usual at the gym and stayed on the ice longer and may have been a little stronger than usual during morning practice. It’s all part of the preparation process for tonight’s game.

“We had three days off, so last night I tried to get my body moving a little bit,” he said. “Coming in today, I’m just warming up in the gym and for me, I’m just trying to sweat a little bit in the morning workout. We haven’t played in a while, so I’m just preparing to feel good tonight, but I don’t want to get hurt, so I’m just trying to get (everything) working before the game.

The other part to consider is that it’s tonight and tomorrow, not just tonight, because the Kings are immediately thrown back to back. They will travel to Vegas immediately following tonight’s game, with tomorrow’s game on the horizon. It will be six periods of hockey in 24 hours and the Kings know they have to be ready to handle that.

The first night the emphasis will be on short shifts, trying to keep lineups rolling and passing shifts between units. When combining free time with back-to-back games, it’s important to keep shifts short. The Kings will try to execute that here tonight.

“I think it’s very important to have shorter, shorter, quicker shifts and let the next guy do his job as well,” added forward Quinton Byfield. “I think it’s important after a three-day break not to extend the length of your shift as much as possible. It’s hockey and anything can happen there, but I think that’s a key element.

How about THIS goal?
While we’re talking about Byfield…let’s look at his second goal last time out. As far as empty-net goals go, I’d challenge anyone to find one more impressive than Byfield’s Saturday against Calgary.

This angle – while super cool – almost doesn’t do it justice in showing how far away Byfield was. The player he was chasing, Calgary defenseman Noah Hanifin, is also an excellent defender and a solid skater. Taking several steps back, Byfield exhibited many of the traits we have come to expect from him this season. His combination of skating, length and toughness has created such an effective player in different situations.

In this piece, even though he didn’t initially plan to do what he did, he showcased all of these tools effectively.

“I was just trying to chase him, I wasn’t even trying to beat Hanafin there, I know he’s fast and I thought he was going to get it, honestly,” Byfield said this morning. “I was just trying to chase him and put a little pressure on him and halfway through I realized I could catch him and I just wanted to get the body position back and ice the play.”

As Todd McLellan detailed after the game, he felt there was a point in this process where Byfield came in and committed to getting the puck, as opposed to his original intention of just harassing a defender to try to gain more time with a one-goal lead.

In speaking with Byfield this morning, he said this point is the halfway point in his pursuit. That’s when he had to make the decision to aggressively pursue the puck or just try to put pressure on the play and direct it where he wanted it. He stepped up and got the job done to cap off a multi-goal night.

“I think halfway there you have to fully commit or let yourself go a little,” he added. “It was always a one-goal game, so you can’t be too aggressive. I fully committed there, I felt like I took a step and it worked.

Here, it’s more about features than results, as Byfield presents these elements in a variety of different scenarios. The tangible result was 25 points in 30 matches. As he and the Kings continue, he will look to move these things forward.

With that, let’s go to Crypto!

I expect to see Nick Nickson back in action tonight on Bally Sports West, glad to hear he’s feeling a little better.

I want to give a shout out here to Josh Schaefer, who is a wonderful young broadcaster and who by all accounts did a great job on his first NHL televised call. Working with a three-person booth, sideline reporters, a full production truck, pre-game and intermission announcers…..I can assure you these things do not exist at the AHL level. A big change and a lot to deal with. Josh handled it all professionally and showed you all his abilities. Stick taps off to a great start.

Tonight it will be the Kings and Sharks, at 7 p.m. in downtown Los Angeles! We’ll see each other there.

Gn En sports

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