TRAINING CAMP: The pace and the contact were on the rise during Day 3 of the Los Angeles Kings training camp. After practice, Dustin Brown talked about what he believes is most important to focus on during the short training camp, Darryl Sutter raved about forward prospect Tyler Toffoli, Dean Lombardi commented on the loss of defenseman prospect Thomas Hickey via the waiver wire, and Jonathan Bernier provided some assurances regarding where his mental game is at going into another season as the backup netminder. Includes raw audio interviews.
EL SEGUNDO, CA — Day 3 of the Los Angeles Kings training camp saw the team focusing on game situations and drills with more contact than in previous days.
“It was our fourth practice today, and we built a little bit of game situations and contact into it,” said head coach Darryl Sutter. “We really liked [how things went] today. We liked the pace, the compete [level].”
The goalies got more out of Tuesday’s practice as well.
“We’ve talked about getting more end zone/five-on-five/five-on-four, more situational type stuff that you’d see in games, just so you can get those reads,” said goalie Jonathan Quick. “For a goalie, you’re getting that ice awareness—where the five guys are that you have to keep an eye on, as opposed to a drill where it’s just one or two shooters, and they come down, they shoot, and then skate back to the corner before the next guy, so it’s more situational.”
“You have to follow the puck after you make a save, and you’ve got to be aware of everyone else on the ice,” added Quick.
Given the pace that everyone is skating at, conditioning might not be as big an issue when games begin on January 19, as some think.
“We’re progressing each day,” said right wing and team captain Dustin Brown. “It’s different for each individual—how they feel. I feel pretty good, myself, but I’ve also been playing for two months.”
“You’re either in shape, or out of shape at this point,” added Brown. “We don’t have enough time to really work on the conditioning part. That’ll come with games played. More important than the conditioning part is just getting back to the details of our system, and making sure that we’re ready, from a positional, X’s and O’s standpoint. The first couple of games, you take short shifts, you do what you have to do to get yourself ready, physically. It’s the mental mistakes that are going to cost us.”
“Everyone seems to be doing just fine with the pace of practice. Every team is in the same boat. You’ve got players who’ve been playing, and players who haven’t. Everyone talks about conditioning in a short camp, but it’s more important to be detailed in the execution of our system, more than anything. I mean, if you make mistakes in your fundamental defensive zone coverage, it doesn’t matter how good [your conditioning] is, so it’s important for us to key in on that stuff.”
As Brown mentioned, he played for about two months in Switzerland while waiting for the NHL lockout to end. He indicated it was a plus for his conditioning.
“It’s a different game,” he noted. “Bigger ice, smaller players. But it was good for my conditioning, because there’s more skating with a bigger ice surface.”
Timing, or the lack thereof, seems to be more of an issue now than conditioning, but that’s no different from normal seasons that begin with training camp in September.
“There’s a lot of guys who haven’t played for awhile now,” Brown noted. “It’s the same as it is every year. It’s just a different time this year.”
Pushing the pace in practice should help in that regard.
“Darryl’s practices are a little more up-tempo [compared to] what a lot of guys have [done] in the past,” said Quick. “But you need that. You need that jump, you need that speed, because that’s what it’s going to be like when the games start.”
Toffoli Turning Heads
Although his chances of staying with the Kings through the start of the new season are 50/50 at best, and probably worse than that, forward prospect Tyler Toffoli (Kings’ second round pick, 47th overall, 2010 NHL Entry Draft) has made quite the impression.
“He’s an impressive, young player,” said Sutter. “He’s got all the attributes to be a good NHL’er. He’s got great instincts, and the more you do game situations, the more you see where he’s going to play, at some point.”
“He’s a boy, a first-year pro,” added Sutter. “He’s got 18 goals in the American [Hockey] League, and he’s certainly not out of place here. He’s going to be a really good player. He’s a good player now.”
Lombardi On Hickey
On January 15, the Kings lost defenseman prospect Thomas Hickey when the New York Islanders claimed him off waivers.
Hickey was placed on waivers by the Kings so that he could be officially assigned to the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League, their primary minor league affiliate, now that a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is in effect.
But the first round pick (fourth overall) in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft will not be returning to the Monarchs now.
“It’s a great opportunity [for Hickey],” said Kings President/General Manager Dean Lombardi. “It’s one of those things where there’s nothing you can do about it.”
No Sulking From Bernier
Although he has asked Lombardi to trade him to a team that could use him as a number one goaltender, Jonathan Bernier is not showing signs of disappointment, disillusionment, anger, or anything else that could have an adverse affect on his game.
Bernier played in Germany during the NHL lockout, and the experienced turned out to be a shot in the arm, so to speak.
“It was good,” Bernier said about his time in Germany. “I actually played in every game. I got that little passion back—going to the rink, and being happy to play hockey. I enjoyed [my stay in Germany]. I traveled, too. It was definitely a great experience for me. The Spengler Cup over Christmas was nice, too. I actually had a pretty busy first half [of what would’ve been the NHL season].”
Bernier’s remark about getting his passion back might raise a red flag, as an indication that he lost that passion last season. Regardless, the perspective gained from playing in Germany should prevent him from losing it again anytime soon.
“When you don’t play much, it becomes a routine, and you take it for granted,” he explained. “Coming back here, you realize more that you’re fortunate to be playing in the NHL, and part of a good team, and a good organization. That’s what I mean about that.”
But even with a fresh perspective on his situation, he knows that it will likely still be a struggle to get starts in goal.
“It’s only a 48-game season, so anything can happen,” Bernier noted. “I know Sutter only likes to play with one goalie, so only the future will tell. Hopefully, I can play more often than I have in the last couple of years.”
Although it is conceivable that a deal involving Bernier could be made if a good backup netminder is coming back to the Kings in trade, Lombardi indicated that Bernier is not going anywhere for the time being.
“I don’t think that’s feasible at all right now,” he said. “He’s an important part of this team. Let’s face it. Our guys in the minors aren’t ready for that role, and that’s an important role.”
“Like Darryl said, with all these games, back-to-back…a number two starter in baseball is pretty important, and that’s the way a [backup] goaltender is,” he added.
Meanwhile, Bernier waits patiently for his turn, and continues to hope for a trade. But whether a deal happens tomorrow, at the trade deadline, or over the summer, he is not going to worry about it, or sulk.
“I don’t know,” Bernier said about the prospects of being traded. “That’s [Lombardi’s] decision. Obviously, he’s not going to say that I’ll be traded, so it’s up to [him].”
“This will be four months that’s really intense,” Bernier added. “Then, summer comes, and then, there’s another season. I just want to focus on this season. Whatever [might happen]—I can’t control that, so I’ll come here, enjoy every day, and have fun.”
“Every time I step in, I have to prove to, first of all, myself, that I can win some hockey games. But I also want to be a great teammate, and win for the guys in the room. That’s the most important thing.”
Last season was disappointing for Bernier, in that he played in just 16 games. But winning the Stanley Cup softened the blow, to say the least, in the best possible way.
“During the playoffs, it was kind of a sour [feeling] not to play one minute, but at the same time, when I looked at it over the summer, I’m pretty fortunate, at 24 [years old]—23 years old last year—that I have my name on the Stanley Cup,” he noted.“ Some guys never [achieved] that, or they played 10-12 years before they got it, so I’m pretty fortunate that way.”
“I have to look at the positive things.”
Raw Audio Interviews
(Extraneous material and dead air have been removed; click on the arrow to listen):
Dustin Brown (5:55)
Rob Scuderi (4:11)
Jonathan Quick (3:40)
Jonathan Bernier (3:46)
Daryl Sutter (4:11)
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