With Opening Night approaching, the Kings should face the Ducks at the Staples Center on Saturday to end the preseason on their last chance to evaluate the players before suddenly making fascinating final roster cuts. Monday is the deadline for submitting cadres to the NHL, and the Kings start their campaign on Thursday.
An ankle injury at rookie center Quinton Byfield, of which King’s coach Todd McLellan said he would almost certainly have been on the squad for Game 1 on Wednesday if he’d been healthy has opened up a squad spot as well as opportunities to get into the line-up to move.
One interesting player is winger Arthur Kaliyev, the Usbeck-American with a precise shot and an exciting one-timer. Kaliyev, 20, scored a hat trick in their 6-3 win over the Ducks on Wednesday and also saw his longtime friend Alex Turcotte. While Kaliyev was excited about the development, he wasn’t worried about saving any pucks for posterity when asked if someone grabbed the cookie from his third goal.
“I don’t know; it’s preseason,” Kaliyev said with a smile.
But Kaliyev has counted his preseason, not just with three goals on Wednesday but with attention to detail in other areas of the game. Known for his scoring skills, Kaliyev had to move away from the puck to improve his defensive play and offensive positioning.
“He still has a lot to do, but as I mentioned, the gap from last year is closed for this year,” said McLellan. “He picked up on things, he did things well and he is pushing for a place in the squad. Will it be the same? I do not know.”
McLellan continued to be cautious about Kaliyev’s status on Friday, mentioning current big-ticket players he coached early in their careers, such as Leon Draisaitl and Darnell Nurse, who had a hard time with the minors. But Kaliyev continued to run in training as part of the four main lines and the main group of Kings.
Moore in the middle, Maatta on the mend
Injury to Byfield, a center, opened up a potential seat for Kaliyev, a winger, given the versatility of the forward and San Fernando Valley-born Trevor Moore. The spark plug and penalty killer was primarily a left winger in black and silver, but he has experience in the center, including for the red-white-blue at the 2021 World Cup.
Moore centered a top scoring line for the Americans, scoring nine points in 10 games and a score of plus seven, giving the United States a bronze medal.
“He had a great tournament, he was playing in the middle, he was in command of the ice when he was playing on the big ice rink,” McLellan told reporters on Friday.
Defender Olli Maatta has run out of contact and is about to return. The veteran plans to be the Kings seventh defender at the start of the season, if available.
Toews can be ready, price is not
Two of the most revered names in the NHL, Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews and Montreal Canadiens goalkeeper Carey Price, have updated their statuses.
The 34-year-old Price unexpectedly led the Canadiens to the Stanley Cup final last season. He is the highest paid goalkeeper in the league and the last goalkeeper to win the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s Most Valuable Player. After an off-season recovering prematurely from a meniscus tear and being exposed in the draft extension (he was not selected), Price appeared physically ready to start the season on a reduced workload.
However, Price has voluntarily entered the NHL and NHLPA Player Support Program and will be off the ice for at least 30 days. While few details are given in such situations, the context of Canadian coach Dominique Ducharme’s comments and an Instagram post by Price’s wife Angela suggest that Price is concerned about his mental health.
Toews, 34, missed all of last season due to chronic immune response syndrome, but the Chicago center and captain said he felt ready to play the Minnesota Wild in his opener.
Toews is one of the most successful players in league history, having won two Stanley Cups, two Olympic gold medals, two Junior U20 World Championship gold medals, one World Championship and one World Championship gold medal. He went on par with the Kings in 2013 and 2014 when the Blackhawks won a Conference Finals series on their way to a Stanley Cup before the Kings returned the favor a year later.