10/27 Preview – Arvidsson Ready To Return + Potential Lineup, Durzi On The Left, TM on Jets

WHO: Los Angeles Kings (4-4-0) vs. Winnipeg Jets (3-3-0)
WHEN: Thursday, October 27 @ 7:30 PM Pacific
WHERE: Crypto.com Arena – Los Angeles, CA
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: Bally Sports West – AUDIO – iHeart Radio – TWITTER: @DooleyLAK & @LAKings

TONIGHT’S MATCHUP: The Kings are back in action this evening on home ice, as they host the Winnipeg Jets for the middle game of a three-game homestand.

HEAD-TO-HEAD: The Kings posted a 1-1-1 record against Winnipeg last season, with all games decided by one goal, including a 3-2 Jets victory in the lone meeting in Los Angeles. Forward Adrian Kempe led the way with three points (2-1-3), while Phillip Danault had a pair of assists.

KINGS VITALS: The Kings have found a bit of routine this week, hitting the ice for a full-team skate yesterday, followed by another optional morning skate today at Toyota Sports Performance Center.

Coming off of the victory over Tampa Bay on Tuesday, goaltender Jonathan Quick did not skate again this morning and is tonight’s presumed starter against the Jets. All-time against the Jets, Quick has posted a 6-6-2 record with a .898 save percentage and a 2.80 goals-against average.

With an optional skate this morning, we won’t have an official confirmation on lines until game time, but here’s how the Kings lined up yesterday during practice –

Fiala – Kopitar – Kempe
Moore – Danault – Vilardi
Anderson-Dolan – Byfield – Kaliyev
Lemieux – Lizotte – Grundstrom

Anderson – Doughty
Durzi – Roy


Forward Viktor Arvidsson skated this morning and is expected to play tonight. Arvidsson missed Tuesday’s game against Tampa Bay and yesterday’s practice with an illness. He was a game-time decision for the game against the Lightning but was not feeling well enough to play after he took warmups. It’s hard to get a full read with an optional skate, but jersey colors indicated that he could potentially skate with Quinton Byfield and Arthur Kaliyev, with Gabe Vilardi remaining with Phillip Danault and Trevor Moore. We’ll see how things shake out and more on Arvidsson below.

VITAL JETS: Winnipeg hits the ice again tonight for the first time since Monday, a 4-0 victory over St. Louis. The Jets have been up and down to start the season, with three wins and three losses from six games played.

Following two days off from games, the expectation is that usual workhorse starter Connor Hellebuyck is expected to get the nod between the pipes for the visitors. Hellebuyck has faced the Kings nine times throughout his NHL career, posting a 4-5-0 record with a .909 save percentage and a 2.91 goals-against average.

Per the Jamie Thomas of Winnipeg’s radio broadcast, here’s how the Jets lined up last time out –

Per Mitchell Clinton of WinnipegJets.com, tonight’s visitors are expected to be without forward Nikolaj Ehlers, who has a lower-body injury, as well as Head Coach Rick Bowness. Bowness tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this month and missed Monday’s game for additional rest. He did not accompany the Jets on their current three-game trip.

Notes –

“Arvy is going to be able to go tonight. I thought Arvy was going to be able to go the other night until after warmups, but Arvy should be good to go.”

That was Todd McLellan speaking this morning about forward Viktor Arvidsson, who has had quite the bout through the first month of the season. Arvidsson began camp skating on his own, following offseason back surgery, but worked his way back into the fold for opening night. He’s now missed two games – Seattle and Tampa Bay – with illness, although he felt that each was a different situation.

A lot to move beyond, but McLellan and the Kings are hopeful that this is the time when he can truly move forward.

“I sure hope so, he and we are all hoping that’s the case,” McLellan said. “Injury, double bout of illness and we’re only a month into the season. It’s been a lot to go through, but it’s adversity. He’ll be fine.”

Arvidsson spoke a lot about that adversity throughout the preseason and into the early regular season. He wasn’t quite himself over the first few games of the season, but really felt more comfortable starting with the back-to-back in Detroit and Nashville. He certainly hit his stride in Washington, as he collected three points including a pair of primary assists off of passes that set up clear, Grade-A chances and opportunities.

Now, he returns for the third time this season, hoping to put the string of bad breaks in the past.

“Yeah, I hope so,” he said this morning. “It’s just been bad bounces, being hurt, coming back, being sick, coming back and playing well but getting sick again. Hopefully this is the end and we can just work from here.”

For everyone’s sake, I hope so too.

Left Side, Strong Side
With the current makeup on the blueline, the Kings are asking a player currently to play on his off side. That has been Sean Durzi here over the last run of games, as he has skated on a pairing with Matt Roy, two right shots playing together.

The Kings have used a minimum of four right-shot defensemen in all eight games this season, rolling with five during the three games Alex Edler missed due to injury. Durzi has frequently been pressed into duty there and is growing and learning along the way. It’s been an adjustment for sure, but Durzi is getting more and more comfortable, with his output improving as a result.

“First of all, it’s playing within our team system and on the right side, it’s a little bit different,” Durzi said. “It’s kind of learning that aspect of it and not thinking about it as much and then once you get past that, you get your reps in, you work on it and you can play more freely and naturally like I usually do. Once I started getting used to playing within our system on the left side, I think everything else comes a little bit easier.”

Todd McLellan talked this morning about how changing sides can be a lot to take on and in situations you might not expect. He pointed to Durzi’s holding penalty against Tampa Bay on Tuesday. The position he was in to begin with came from being on his off hand and it led into the penalty taken. It’s just one example, but there are certainly things that need to be experienced and practiced before they can come into play.

“There’s a lot to learn when you play your off side,” McLellan said. “Through no fault of his or anyone else that’s asked to go over there, it takes a while and situations arise that until you experience them, you really don’t know. We understand where to watch for it, we try and teach him those things, but it takes some time and it’s not an easy task.”

That’s not to say it’s an unlearnable thing, as neither Durzi nor McLellan believe that it is. Durzi is making a lot of progress there, but it’s probably not fair to judge a player based off of game one, when game one is spent doing something new in the NHL.

Durzi pointed to Shea Theodore of Vegas a player who has thrived when playing on his off side. There are plenty of players who do it around the league, we’re just drawing more attention to it here because it’s typically a left-handed player making the move, as opposed to one who shoots right. It’s an opportunity for a player like Durzi to expand his role and his minutes and also increase his value within the organization, if he has the versatility to play both sides of the ice.

As he’s grown more comfortable, Durzi feels like he’s trending towards playing more freely now than he had been when he was first placed in that spot and that’s key for him.

“Now that I’ve had a few games under my belt, with defending it’s a little bit different,” he added. “I grew up on the right, hitting with this shoulder, hip check this way, you do everything the other way and then you switch. I’m comfortable playing the left and I think I can do it really well and with more reps, I’m not thinking about where I have to be within our structure and I can just play freely. When I’m playing freely, I’m at my best and I feel like I’ve been there for the last little bit.”

McLellan Talks Winnipeg
Lastly, Insiders, Todd McLellan with an evaluation of tonight’s opponent early in the season –

“Like all the teams, they’ve played few games this year, they have a new coaching staff and the coach has been sick so they’re trying to get their new systems and structure into place, but they played very hard. St. Louis, Rangers, in Colorado, those are their wins, so they’re beating some very good teams. Goaltending is outstanding, they seem to have the ability to grind really well below the tops of the circles in the o-zone, to keep a lot of plays alive. When you when you hear those characteristics, it’s the making a pretty good team, so we’ll have our hands full.”

Kings and Jets, tonight at 7:30 PM from Crypto.com Arena, as the Kings look to double their pleasure on home ice. See you there!

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