LA Kings: Young defensemen headline Kings/Avalanche matchup

LA Kings (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
LA Kings (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

After appearing in just four games with the LA Kings last season, Kale Clague had a rough outing in the team’s 2021 season opener. The Kings second-round pick in 2016 logged 15:19 of on-ice time, registering just one shot while contributing to the team’s parade to the penalty box.

On the other side, Bowen Byram will be making his NHL debut on Thursday night. The fourth overall pick of the 2019 draft recently played for Team Canada in the World Juniors, scoring one goal and five points in seven games.

LA Kings head coach Todd McLellan spoke more about Clague after Thursday’s practice.

On whether there’s any hesitation on inserting Clague with Sean Walker

No, we’re not concerned about that. I think when you look at teams around the league and the pairs that they have there, the skating defenseman, the one that has good legs and can escape out of trouble as well as pass and visually see what’s happening in front of them. Those are very valuable type of defenseman. So if those two play and end up playing together, we’ll feel comfortable in that, in that regard.

On reasons to mix up a line or add Clague to the mix

Oh, if we do, it won’t be dramatic. We’re not gonna put everything into a blender, but it’s just trying to find a few more players get them up and running a little bit better, a little bit quicker, maybe needing more from other individuals can one line or to one individual complement a pair right now, based on how they’re playing. As far as inserting guys in and out of the lineup, you know, twofold based on performance, but also based on the ability to keep everybody, I always use the word “alive” and “close to the team.” They need minutes. Keep in mind, nobody has played any exhibition games. So Kale Clague, for example, has played one [game] in the last 10 months. He goes another two weeks, we basically lost him again. So it’s important that everybody gets a feel for the game.

Kale Clague also spoke with the media following McLellan and Adrian Kempe.

On whether there was any message from Todd [McLellan] for being out of the lineup in Games Two and Three

He just said it had nothing really to do with my game. [He] just told me to stay ready and that the next opportunity is going to come soon. And I think I just did that – work hard in practice. And, you know, it’s good to watch the games, you know, take some things away from those, and I’m excited to be back in the lineup tonight.

On playing against a team like Colorado

I mean, they’re a fast team. I think it’s gonna be really important for us to get back to pucks in a hurry. So I think that’s an advantage to get the pucks, spray pucks out fast. And then also in the offensive zone and the blue line, just you know, with creating lots of motion, causing stress in their on their wingers. So yeah, it’ll be fun. I played my first NHL game with Walks [Sean Walker]. So we have that familiarity and play a little bit in American League too. So I think it’s gonna be good.

On potentially playing more passive to account for Colorado’s speed

I don’t think so. I think, you know, whether you’re, you know, Nathan MacKinnon or Tyson Jost or whoever you are, you know, nobody likes to have their time and space taken away. So, I think just being in their face and being aggressive. I think that’s gonna be key and not giving them too much time. So I’m gonna try to do just that.