LOS ANGELES — Sometime during the 11:00 AM hour on January 7, Vincent Lecavalier and Luke Schenn arrived at Los Angeles International Airport, having been traded to the Los Angeles Kings from the Philadelphia Flyers the day before.
Both players had to undergo physical examinations and then make their way to the Kings’ practice facility in El Segundo, California to meet with team management and briefly with the coaching staff.
Little did they know that the coaches had a surprise in store for them—that they would be in the lineup that same night against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“[We found out] At about 12:30 this afternoon, after we flew in,” said Schenn. “So we traveled, I think it was five-and-a-half hours, this morning. It was just kind of a whirlwind day. It’s nice to kind of not go in and overthink things too much, just go in there and play. I’m not sure what the expectations were leading in, but luckily enough, it worked out and we got a win.”
Indeed, the Kings defeated the Maple Leafs, 2-1, and in the game, both Lecavalier and Schenn put in solid performances, with Lecavalier contributing an assist on a goal by defenseman Jake Muzzin to open the scoring at 2:53 of the third period.
“It feels great,” said Lecavalier. “I think it was just a good team effort tonight. I mean, just the support plays, the way they play. It’s impressive. It was nice to be a part of today. Everybody worked really hard and it paid off.”
“[They’re] A great bunch of guys, I can tell already,” added Lecavalier. “I didn’t know a lot of them, but you can tell this room is a good room and it’s exciting. Everything was kind of quick, so I was kind of on adrenaline tonight and I’ll have a good sleep and start over tomorrow and have a good practice with them.”
Lecavalier said that the system the Kings play is not a complicated one.
“This team is not all over the place when they play,” he said. “It’s really a support game, and I know I’ve said that three or four times already, but it just makes things so much easier. Systems-wise, in the defensive zone I’m sure there’s a few things that I maybe could’ve done a little bit better, but it’s all things I’m sure they’ll tell me [about] more on video.”
“This team just plays the same all the time, consistently, and that’s why they win big games 2-1 or 3-1,” he added. “We just kind of keep going and that’s what we did tonight.”
“It’s just about learning the systems, but for a first game, I felt good. I was afraid my legs wouldn’t get going because of the travelling and the lack of sleep the last few days, but I felt really good.”
Schenn did not record a point in the game, but was strong around his own net throughout.
“It was exciting,” he said. “I mean, it’s a really good building to play in, it’s a good atmosphere. I just tried to soak a little bit in before the game and try to shake hands and get to know a few of the teammates. I’m not too familiar with a lot of the guys.”
“It was kind of nice to just go out there,” he added. “You don’t overthink things. You just try and go out there and play. It was a lot of fun, obviously, real nice to get the win. It was a hard-fought game by both teams.”
Schenn noted that it would take a bit of time to learn the Kings system.
“It’s going to be an adjustment here for a while,” said Schenn. “It’s a little bit different. I’m used to how they play in Philly, so it will be a bit of an adjustment, but the coaches did a great job before the game kind of bringing me up to speed, how they want me to play, and what the system is. They made things easy for sure that way and the guys were great helping me along.”
“Toronto gave us a good fight tonight and everything we could handle there,” added Schenn. “They’re playing real good hockey and it was a tough, 60-minute effort. But it was definitely weird being on the other side against them. Yeah, it’s an experience that I personally have never been through before. It was lucky that we got the win and just tried to fit in.”
Trailing by a goal, the Maple Leafs pulled goaltender James Reimer at 17:04 of the third period, and they controlled the puck for most of the 2:56 at the end of the game with the extra attacker. During that stretch, Schenn was on the ice for two shifts, including the final 42 seconds.
“It means a lot to get that opportunity early on, to have a little bit of trust from the coaches,” Schenn noted. “I wasn’t sure what the role would be, the opportunity. Obviously, I know that L.A. has got a great defense and guys that can play in all different situations. I was thankful for the opportunity there and luckily, it worked out and we were able to get the win.”
Lecavalier, Schenn On The Trade
Lecavalier and Schenn met the local media for the first time about 2 1/2 hours prior to the game.
Lecavalier talked about joining his new team.
“[I’m feeling] a lot of excitement,” he said. “Any time you get traded, especially in the middle of the season, you’re in the mix with your own team, and for it to happen in the middle of the season comes as a bit of a surprise. But I couldn’t be happier to go to a team like Los Angeles.”
“It’s a first class organization with a great hockey team,” he added. “I’m just glad to be a part of it, and it’s just very exciting.”
As previously reported in this space, Lecavalier will fill a lesser role than he has earlier in his career.
“If you look at the lineup, obviously with [Jeff Carter and Anze Kopitar], some top centers in this league, they just want me to come in here and fill in that role that they want me to,” he said. “I’m ready for it, I’m excited for it. They’ve had a lot of success playing as a team, and that’s what everybody’s doing. That’s what everybody has to do to win, and I’ll do the same.”
“I haven’t played in a while, but I’ve been practicing hard, and I’ll try to be as ready as possible for that first game,” he added. “You know, obviously, short shifts are the key, but I’m ready to go. I think I’ll fit in really well. I don’t know who I’m playing with, I don’t know really anything right now. I just want to do my best and make sure tonight that I’m ready to go and play well with the guys.”
Although they were told earlier in the day that they would be in the lineup for the game that night against the Maple Leafs, Lecavalier indicated that they did not get much of a chance to talk with the coaching staff.
“We haven’t talked,” said Lecavalier. “I got here pretty late, so it’s been a long day. I think we’re meeting after. Just play hockey, and I’ve been watching their games. [The Flyers] were here last week, and I’ve watched a few games.”
“I know how this team plays,” added Lecavalier. “It’s all about support and all about playing together. You can tell when you watch the Kings play, it takes ten seconds to figure out how they play because it’s so simple, yet effective, and that’s what makes them so good. It’s not everybody everywhere, it’s everybody supporting. That’s why they’ve been so good the last little while.”
Lecavalier confirmed that he would retire at the end of this season, a key factor that made the trade work.
“It wasn’t [a difficult decision],” he said. “It’s something that I was planning on doing, and it’s something that I’m going to do. I’m happy to be a part of a team where I get a chance to play, to play a certain role. I’m really excited about that, and to get a chance to win another Stanley Cup would be great.”
“The best season of my career was when I won in 2004 [with Tampa Bay], so hopefully, I can come in here and help out as much as possible, try and help these guys keep going,” he added. “Obviously, they’re doing well, so keep going with them and hopefully, it’s going to be another great season.”
Schenn praised Lecavalier, noting that despite being on the outside looking in with the Flyers, he always kept his head up and remained positive—a good teammate.
“I think if you asked any guy on our team in Philadelphia, the way the situation was the past couple of years, he’s nothing but a true professional,” Schenn noted. “He’s handled it better than anyone I think possibly could.”
“He came to work every day in practice, he’s the first one to do extra drills in practice with the scratches or the hurt guys,” Schenn added. “In a situation like that, it’s pretty easy to probably walk around and not feel so great about yourself and bring your teammates down, but he hasn’t shown that at all. He’s been nothing but a true professional, and I think that’s probably one of the impressive things, and you can ask any guy on our team about that in Philadelphia and everyone would say the same thing.”
Like Lecavalier, Schenn also said he was excited about the move to Los Angeles.
“I’m really excited,” he said. “You know, it kind of hits you as a bit of a shock, initially. I’ve never been traded before in the season, so it’s a bit of a whirlwind.”
“[The Flyers] just played the Kings last week, and they’re obviously a great team,” he added. “We were all talking after the game about how we thought it was probably the toughest game we’ve played all year, against the Kings, so to get traded to a team like that, where you know they get respect around the league, it’s a pretty good feeling.”
Schenn will be expected to play a physical brand of hockey, a similar role to that of defenseman Matt Greene (lost for the season with an upper body injury that required surgery).
“I think that’s part of my game for sure, to try to be physical,” said Schenn. “That’s probably when I feel I’m most successful—when I’m playing physical. I don’t want to say you’re going to replace Matt Greene, or this guy or that guy. I just want to try to come in here, play, try to help the team and try to fill whatever role they want me to fill.”
“You just try to fit in any way you can,” added Schenn. “But I know that they’re a big team that plays physical, plays hockey the right way, and I just want to come in here, help out, be simple and help out any way I can.”
Schenn knows a few Kings players, but is most familiar with defenseman Drew Doughty—they’ve known each other for quite some time.
“I’ve played with him a little bit before,” said Schenn. “We were in the same draft class together, and we’re buddies. We’ve grown up a little bit, but I know a few other guys on the team too, so it always helps to see a few familiar faces around.”
“We were pretty good buddies on all those teams,” said Doughty. “I hung out with him a lot. For three or four years there I was around him all the time, and he’s a great guy. Came up from a great family—really, really nice people.”
“He wants to win a Stanley Cup, and that’s what we want to do here, too,” added Doughty. “Bringing him in, I know that he’s determined to get that championship, and he’s determined to play whatever role the coaches want him to play and be effective in that role.”
Doughty indicated that the change of scenery should work wonders for both players.
“[They] obviously came from a team where they’re maybe not doing great in the standings, or whatever it is,” he observed. “To come to a team that’s in first place in the division, a team that’s won two Stanley Cups in the last four years, that’s going to make both those guys hungry. They want to fit in right away and they want to be effective in their roles and do whatever it takes to help us win.”
Schenn also has family with ties to the Kings, with younger brother Brayden having been a Kings first round pick who was later traded to the Flyers where he got the opportunity to play with his older brother.
“It’s funny how everything comes a full circle,” said Schenn. “Brayden was drafted here, had a short time here, but we ended up in Philadelphia together. That was real exciting for the both of us. We got the chance to play together for a couple years, and now I come back here.”
“It’s kind of funny how everything works out,” added Schenn. “It’s something you definitely wouldn’t expect, but you know, the time he did spend here, he said it was nothing but great memories and a great organization, and he knows a handful of guys here who were around five years ago.”
“Obviously, it’s a great organization. You can tell by the past few years how they’ve done and the way they’ve built things. It’s nice that he can give you a few pointers and tips. It’s crazy how everything works itself out.”
Unlike Schenn, Lecavalier doesn’t have any past connections to the Kings, or any of his new teammates.
“I don’t [know anyone], actually,” he said. “I mean, a few guys I’ve met before, but nobody—I know Luke knows a few of the guys personally. I’ve met [Marian Gaborik and Kopitar] a few times here and there, but I don’t know anybody really personally. But it’s good. It kind of feels like the first day of school, but it’s exciting.”
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