TRAINING CAMP COVERAGE: Frozen Royalty’s coverage of the Los Angeles Kings’ 2011 Training Camp begins with details on who might get ice time as a replacement for holdout defenseman Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar’s ankle and how it held up on the first day, more on Dustin Penner’s conditioning, and on Dustin Brown trying to build chemistry with new line mates. Includes 15 audio interviews from Day 1 of training camp.
EL SEGUNDO, CA — The Los Angeles Kings hit the ice for the first time during their 2011 Training Camp on Saturday, September 17, and, unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, or vacationing in a desolate, primitive area, isolated from the hockey world, you know that defenseman Drew Doughty is in the midst of a contract dispute with the Kings, and is now a holdout.
Indeed, the 21-year-old defenseman was nowhere to be found when the Kings hit the ice at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, California, their practice facility.
With no end in sight in the Doughty saga, the story was not just his absence, but who might fill his skate boots should he continue to holdout.
“The plans [for training camp] do not change at all,” said head coach Terry Murray. “We’re going to miss Doughty. I wish he was here to be a part of it. He’s a very important player, he’s a big part of the locker room, and a fun guy to be around. He’s a great player for us, but the plans do not change for the training camp. We have to get ready for the start of the year.”
“The opportunity is there for someone to grab a position if Doughty does not show up here near the end of training camp, to be a part of the team on opening night,” added Murray. “It changes things with Doughty out of the training camp right now. There’s no question that other defensemen are going to be looked at closely.”
“It’s a great opportunity for guys to play a lot in exhibition games and show us what they can do. I’m talking about Viatcheslav Voynov, who’s coming off an all-star year at Manchester. Davis Drewiske was here all last year, and didn’t play a lot, so it’s a great chance for him to step up and grab ahold of some minutes. You can go though the different names, but there’s no question that someone’s going to get rewarded with Doughty not being here.”
As of now, Voynov, has an advantage over the rest.
“He has a little bit of an edge because he’s a right-hand shot, but also because he’s a skilled guy who plays on the power play,” Murray noted. “That’s one of his strengths—carry the puck, see the ice, make plays. He’s got a nice shot, good quickness and instincts, and he’s a skilled player.”
“The other part of that is he’s coming off an all-star year,” Murray added. “When you pay your dues the last couple of years, like he has, and his game keeps getting better, he’s a player I’m going to keep a close eye on.”
Kopitar Feeling No Pain
Star center Anze Kopitar, who suffered a broken right ankle with torn ligaments in a freakish fall in late March, forcing him to miss the remainder of the 2010-11 season, along with the playoffs, looks like he hasn’t missed a beat.
“I’m real happy with what I saw,” said Murray. “He’s 100 percent, as far as his recovery [is concerned]. Kopitar is looking really good. He’s skating, he’s strong, he’s enthusiastic. He wanted to get going even before I ended the video session. As he said to me, ‘it’s been a long time since I’ve played.’”
Well, maybe 99.99999 percent.
“It’s a little tough to be in a skate for three hours, but, other than that, it felt good,” said Kopitar. “[He did not feel] pain. It’s still a little sore from the swelling [a normal condition following his injury that he will have to deal with for about a year]. But it’s more uncomfortable than sore, so I’m not concerned about it at all.”
“I’ve been doing all the [conditioning work and skating] for the last two months,” added Kopitar. “Maybe it’s not as flexible as I want it to be, but again, it’s just the swelling. It’s not pain.”
Kopitar stressed that whatever flexibility issues he is experiencing is of no consequence.
“We’re talking about a couple of degrees here and there,” he noted. “It’s not affecting me at all. I’m not worried about that at all.”
Speaking Of Conditioning…
Outside of Doughty’s contract situation, perhaps the biggest story has been left wing Dustin Penner’s strength and conditioning, in light of him being in sub-par physical condition when he joined the Kings on February 28, 2011, the result of a trade deadline deal with the Edmonton Oilers.
But Penner dedicated himself to the strength and conditioning program prescribed for him during the summer, and it showed as early as mid-July, when he looked trim and very fit, having lost about ten pounds.
Murray has been keeping a close eye on Penner all summer long, and he finally got to see the results of all that hard work in action, and not just from Penner.
“Overall conditioning, the results were good [for everyone],” said Murray. “We do the off-ice and on-ice testing, and, most importantly for me, the actual hockey test, the on-ice skating was really good. The times—the heart rate recovery is what I look at as a primary number, and I’m seeing a real good look from every player who’s come into the camp.”
Penner said that he could tell the coaching staff was pleased with his physical testing results.
“The ones that I was worried about, I don’t know,” Penner explained. “They’re more intricate, like the rest and recovery [test] with the six sprints and then rest. They were pretty happy, based on the looks on [assistant coaches] John [Stevens’] and Jamie [Kompon’s] faces.”
When asked about his weight, Penner, as he often does, launched into his one-man stand up act.
“I tried this new thing where I close my eyes when I step on the scale, so I don’t find out until the media guide comes out,” he quipped. “It’s more exciting that way, so I don’t know, either.”
“We could have a watch party when it comes out,” he added.
But, thanks to Hockey Hall of Fame writer Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times, who cornered Kings President/General Manager Dean Lombardi, the gathered media were finally able to find out what Penner’s magic number was.
As it turns out, Penner lost not ten, but 18 pounds, dropping down to 242 pounds coming into training camp from the 260 pounds he weighed in late February.
Lombardi told reporters that while Penner still has work to do in terms of his physical conditioning, he is on the right track, and appears to have been sold on the benefits of hard work during the off-season.
“This year, what I focused on was body fat,” said Penner. “That dropped four percent.”
With the improved strength and conditioning, Penner appeared to be faster during puck pursuit and rush drills.
“I felt quicker, stronger,” he beamed. “From the start of my push, it’s strong all the way through, as opposed to before [his off-season training regimen] when I was losing power halfway through the push. I can finish my stride.”
Having played together when they were with the Philadelphia Flyers, center Mike Richards and left wing Simon Gagne are expected to quickly rebuild the chemistry they had with in the City of Brotherly Love.
“It’s not going to be a big difference in the system from where they came from, more for Richards than Gagne,” Murray explained. “There might be a little bit of a different look at Tampa Bay [where Gagne played last season]. But those two guys played together in the past, and they had great chemistry. I think they’re going to adjust very easily.”
“Both players are world-class players,” Murray elaborated. “They played for Team Canada, they played in the Olympics. Those are teams that are put together very quickly. They have different looks, different systems, so it’s just a matter of presenting everything, and those guys have a very high IQ, so they’re going to adapt and adjust to stuff you’re putting in place very quickly.”
But over on other side, right wing and team captain Dustin Brown is the “new” guy on that line, and its going to take some time for the line to develop chemistry.
“It feels good,” said Brown. “I played against Richards, so I know his style. I don’t know Gagne nearly as well, but that’s what training camp is for, to work out the kinks.”
“Having played in Philadelphia, they have a good idea of how each other plays,” added Brown. “I’m just trying to incorporate myself into how they did things in Philadelphia, because they were very successful there.”
Richards pointed to communication as being a key factor towards building chemistry.
“[Gagne and Richards] did a lot of communicating out there, trying to get back to the old habits we had together a couple of years ago,” Richards noted. “It’s going to take some time, but the biggest thing is just talking it through and communicating, learning the game plan.”
“It’s not always about X’s and O’s, although some of it is,” Richards added. “It’s where people are going, and trying to get what they’re thinking as you get into games, and, obviously, games are the biggest thing. At practice, you do your best weed out the bad habits and push forward.”
With Gagne and Richards already having some chemistry, as much as Brown has to do to fit in with them, they have to work just as hard to fit with Brown.
“As a player, you want to go out there, just let it go, and see how we’re going to go,” said Gagne. “Brown was pretty good today, adjusting himself to us. But, at the same time, Mike and I have the responsibility to adjust to him, too.”
“I think that could be a really good line,” added Gagne. “We have three more practices before we play a [pre-season] game, so that’ll give us time to know each other pretty good and find ourselves on the ice. It’s going to be good to see how it goes in a real game.”
“It’s tough out here, because it’s practice situations, and we’re doing very specific drills,” Brown noted. “Once you get into a game, it’s more about chemistry and creativity.”
Although chemistry can take awhile to develop, Murray has high hopes it will come sooner rather than later during training camp.
“I’m just hoping that the chemistry is going to hit right away, as quickly as possible, and that I don’t have to change things are we get near the end of [training] camp,” he said.
Raw audio interviews from Day 1 of the Kings 2011 Training Camp
(Extraneous material and dead air have been removed)
Dustin Brown (3:44)
Mike Richards (2:33)
Simon Gagne (4:41)
Dustin Penner (5:31)
Anze Kopitar (2:58)
Rob Scuderi (2:14)
Thomas Hickey (1:11)
Jack Johnson (3:43)
Trent Hunter (3:11)
Justin Williams (2:51)
Matt Greene (3:55)
Richard Clune (3:22; edited for language)
Kyle Clifford (3:39)
Terry Murray (after first on-ice session; 3:22)
Terry Murray (after Day 1; 11:39)
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