LA Kings: Todd McLellan not expecting repeat of Anaheim game

LA Kings (Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)
LA Kings (Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports) /

The last time the LA Kings had several days off, they played poorly against the Ducks. Will things be different against the Wild on Tuesday?

The LA Kings haven’t played since last Thursday – a decisive 6-2 victory over their rivals in the San Jose Sharks. The series overall can be considered a success despite blowing a late lead in the first game, as Los Angeles still came away with three out of a possible four points.

With Saturday’s game against Minnesota postponed, Tuesday’s game has a similar feeling as when the Kings faced Anaheim and were, quite frankly, embarrassed on their home ice. That game marked consecutive losses for the Kings in what stretched out to a five-game losing streak while playing without key members of the team.

However, the recent off days can also be viewed positively, as the LA Kings saw Andreas Athanasiou and Blake Lizotte return to the team after landing on the NHL’s COVID protocol list. Additionally, Matt Roy and a fully-caged Sean Walker returned, which head coach Todd McLellan indicated provided a boost to the team just having those guys back.

Depending on if both Roy and Walker suit up for the Kings on Tuesday, the team all of a sudden has a log jam defensively after scrambling to find bodies during their absences. The Wild are slight favorites with a -114 money line – courtesy of our friends at the Action Network – but Todd McLellan expects his team to continue where they left off on Thursday.

“[A] three-day layoff will not be an excuse for our team,” McLellan said with conviction after practice on Monday. “Tomorrow, none of us should be talking about it being rusty or anything like that. Players and you guys as well, because we’ve had three practices, we’ve been able to maintain our game pace where Minnesota has been off for two weeks. So if anybody should be talking about the break causing issues, it’ll be their team. So let’s get that out of the way right off the bat.”

If anything, the LA Kings should be more prepared, having gone through that experience against Anaheim and the four difficult games against Minnesota already.

“I thought the guy showed up for three days of pretty good practice,” the LA Kings head coach said. “And it varied from anything that goes on defensively, in our end, net, play breakouts, all that type of stuff into [the] neutral zone. Obviously, we got to continue to work on offensive play. So for tracking and creating some offense off of that, and then special teams, and that basically goes on every day.”

Other notes from the LA Kings media session on Monday

On Gabe Vilardi being absent from practice

[It was] Just a maintenance day for him. [We’re] expecting him to be in the lineup tomorrow

On what the team has done differently since the Anaheim experience

Our practices have had the same level of intensity. I expect the players to prepare differently and apply themselves a little bit different than they did in the Anaheim game. We were beaten [in] every facet of that game. And when that happens, you get that type of result. If we compete hard, and we win our share of competitive situations, and it doesn’t go our way at the end of the night, we have to live with that. But that was not the case against Anaheim. And I do not expect that to happen tomorrow.

On finding consistency from Austin Wagner

Well, it’s time for Austin to step up. He’s an established veteran in the league right now. And if we’re still talking or asking about consistency issues, that’s on him. And quite frankly, we expect more from him on a night-in, night-out basis with his speed and his tenacity. The forecheck has to be part of his game and yes, create turnovers for himself and for his teammates. We need all the other ingredients from him. And there’s been a few times he’s been out of the lineup this year just to be reminded of that. So let’s see that first and then other goals, and all the extra will come.

On what the team is looking to do differently against Minnesota

Well, we went through all the goals against, not even the goals for, and you know the number of individual just flat-out, not very smart plays that lead to goals against. If we can just eliminate those, and we’re never going to be perfect, but take those out of the game, and then they’re able to keep their cycle alive for a lot longer than we would like. We weren’t able to kill it quickly or at least stall it to the point where you know we could get possession. They rolled around pretty good on our end, so we’ll be looking to improve in that area.

Puck drop is set for 7 pm from Staples Center.