Practice? Practice! The Kings hit the ice in El Segundo with a return to routine the center focus

The LA Kings…………practiced!

Normally not a huge headline, but for the Kings here in the first month or so of the season, it’s been few and far between that the Kings have actually hit the ice for a full-team practice, considering the league’s heaviest slate of games in the early goings.

“It’s been nine days since we actually got the whole group out there and had a grinding, heavy hard, direct, barking practice,” Todd McLellan said this morning. “Results, whatever they would have been against the Panthers, we were having this type of practice today. We just happened to have those and we’ve got a couple practices more this week that are going to be really important.”

The Kings put together an emotional and entertaining win over Florida on Saturday evening, capping off an extended run that has included games, CBA-mandated off days, travel days and the occasional practice day thrown in.

Let’s break down the first 27 days of the season.

First things first, the Kings have played 14 games during the first 27 games of the season. That leaves 13 days that they did not play a game from October 11 through November 6. The Kings have had eight off days, or at least days that the team did not practice on the ice during that span, with the off-ice practice day in Washington included in that group. That leaves just five practice days out of the 27. Three of those came on the week of October 24, when the Kings had a short run of home games, their first real stretch of a regular slate this season. The last of those skates, October 28 was also the last time the Kings practiced this season.

“Our last practice was what, over a week ago?” forward Phillip Danault asked to himself. “We definitely feel good and obviously after a win too. We want to fix a couple of things, we know we haven’t been bad but we got to be better with system details, things like that. So, it obviously felt good to practice.”

As the Kings got back at it today, there were focused on several different areas of the game. That focus included different situational things to prepare for Minnesota tomorrow, as well as elements of the Kings game that were specific to the way they want to play, regardless of opponent.

Speaking with defenseman Sean Durzi today, he focused in on the battle-focused drills that the Kings ran during the end of practice as a good way to improve on a few different parts of the game. He felt that having a more regular routine to practice is important and a good way to not only get better as a team, but build together as a team.

“Guys battle against each other a little bit and work on a few things, sharpen things up and quite honestly just getting some good work in was good for us,” Durzi said. “You always feel better when you get your work during practice, there are always things that we can clean up as a team. Working hard, executing and having fun, it only helps us build, get closer as a team and it helps our game on the ice. It’s good to get back at it.”

McLellan felt that the pace on the ice was quite good and that message went right on down through the players on the ice.

Speaking with Danault, he emphasized the desire that the Kings have to play fast and to do everything that they do fast while on the ice. That came through during today’s skate and the Kings hope to see if it also comes through during the game.

“We want to play fast, we want to work on that and that was the main subject for our practice today,” Danault said. “I think if we play fast, it would be a great addition for our team.”

As McLellan mentioned, it really wasn’t a day to mess around.

The Kings went in with a firm plan of how they wanted to execute during today’s practice and what they wanted to achieve. When a drill was done incorrectly, or something didn’t fall in line with the focal point of the skate, the drill was quickly stopped, corrected and executed again. Even though the quality of the ice was a bit lacking, with the rain and weather outside affecting things in the rink, McLellan felt that the group was focused today and executed, though he was also quick to shut things down if it wasn’t done the right way.

“Yeah we did [like how things went], but when we didn’t, we let them hear about it,” McLellan said. “Do it again and do it right. You’re not going to be perfect, but we’d like to be thinking about perfection and trying to do it right.”

Perhaps the one upside to the lack of practice time, however, has been quick integration into gameplay.

The Kings have played 14 games in 26 days, the most in the NHL during that span. Both Danault and Durzi mentioned that it’s been nice to get into “game speed” right off the bat, finding a rhythm when it comes to playing so frequently, despite the added travel and recovery that comes along with that.

“It’s nice to play games and get into a rhythm, but with the travel and all that it takes a little bit of a toll,” Durzi added. “We’ve done a decent job on the road so far, there are obviously things you want to get better at but getting into that groove is good. For myself, it’s my second season now, so it’s something I’m a little more used to, which is nice. Recovery, taking care of your body, the older guys here appreciate it more than anyone and I learn from them.”

Durzi mentioned Danault, as well as players lkie Anze Kopitar and Matt Roy who do a good job of showing younger players the right way to take care of their bodies on the road. That is important, especially without as much practice time. The trade-off, naturally, to that game speed and recovery has been the practice time, but that doesn’t appear to be much of a storyline moving forward.

With a schedule that looks a bit more forgiving here over the next two weeks, the Kings are hopeful to be able to take advantage of a return to routine. This week sees a more regular alternation between practices and games, heading into Saturday, before the team will have a couple of opportunities to skate on the road, even if it’s not quite the same as a skate here at home.

A strong opportunity on paper, with the onus on the group to capitalize on the ice.

“We have to take advantage of it, which is why today it was a pretty stiff, straightforward practice,” McLellan added. “There wasn’t a lot of fooling around or fun and games because we don’t have a lot of time to get better. As the week lays out, we’ll have that. It’s always harder to practice on the road, it just is. You’re at practice facilities, you don’t have the same type of equipment, all that type of stuff and the mindset is a little bit different, it’s almost a maintenance day.”

The Kings will return to the ice tomorrow for morning skate in El Segundo before they host the Minnesota Wild at 7:30 PM at Arena. Full coverage to come here from game day and a few different storylines to follow in the coming days!

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