EL SEGUNDO, CA — With the 2017 National Hockey League All-Star break behind them, the Los Angeles Kings, with the exception of all-stars Jeff Carter and Drew Doughty, who were given the day off, got back to work at practice on January 30.
Right wing Tyler Toffoli participated in the full practice, without restrictions. Missing was defenseman Matt Greene, who was placed on injured reserve, retroactive to January 20.
Although he said that he is “close” to returning, it appears unlikely that Toffoli will be available for the game at Arizona on January 31. The same goes for the game against Colorado on February 1 at Staples Center.
“Getting there, getting close,” he said. “I’ve been trying to get back as best I can. I’m almost there.”
Toffoli indicated that he is still feeling some discomfort and that he is working on how to deal with that.
“It’s something I’ve got to get used to,” he noted. “Hopefully, it’s not going to linger. But it’s one of those things where you don’t know what’s going to happen.”
“I’m waiting until I can be productive on the ice and when I’ll be able to help the team,” he added. “That’s when it’s going to be. Guys have been stepping up and playing well and we got a couple of big wins before the break. We’ve just got to keep pushing.”
“I’m skating with the guys, so that’s a good sign. It’s good to be back out there with them.”
Playoff Push Comes Into Sharper Focus
Traditionally speaking, the All-Star break marks the beginning of the big push for the playoffs, when the intensity increases, the level of play rises, and when the games get tougher and tougher.
With the Kings currently out of the playoff picture, one point out of a wild card spot, they know that they have their work cut out for them and that they have issues to address.
“Every season is similar in that you want to be getting better all the time,” said defenseman Alec Martinez. “Right now, we’re in a battle. That’s pretty clear.”
“The end goal is the same—make the playoffs and once you get in it, win the whole thing,” added Martinez. “But in terms of what we can do better, I just think we have to do a better job of playing a team game and capitalizing on our chances. We’ve been generating a lot of opportunities, but not necessarily finishing on them.”
But their most critical issue is a fundamental one.
“It’s just putting in a full 60 minutes,” Martinez lamented. “I think that’s been our biggest issue and I know there’s things that are tied into that, but putting together a complete game—if you want to win hockey games in this league, you’ve got to do that.”
“You can’t afford to have the lapses that we’ve had,” added Martinez. “It might only be a shift or two, or a couple of minutes in the second period, things like that. That’s one of the things. Better starts would be up there, too.”
Martinez indicated that failing to play with intensity and focus for the full 60 minutes in a game is an issue on the mental side of the equation.
“I think we’ve just got to stay sharper, mentally, and have more attention to detail,” he stressed. “There’s plenty of guys in this room who have won before and they know what it takes.”
“You’ve got to focus on the little things,” he added. “The little things separate the good teams from the great teams, and every year, you’ve got different guys in different roles. We’ve obviously lost some guys due to the business side of things, but it’s an opportunity for a lot of different guys, including myself, to step up and, maybe, take on a role that they haven’t had in years past.”
“I think that there’s a learning process, certainly. That said, there’s no excuse. We’re professional athletes. We’ve got to be able to play 60 minutes and put it together.”
LEAD PHOTO: Los Angeles Kings right wing Tyler Toffoli. Photo: David Sheehan/CaliShooterOne Photography.
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