EL SEGUNDO, CA — The next item on the agenda for the Los Angeles Kings coaching staff is for newly-acquired goaltender Joonas Korpisalo and defenseman Vladimir Gavrikov to get fully acclimated with their new team.
Korpisalo knows that his job is to stop the puck. The bigger challenge, in terms of adjusting to his new team, will be for Gavrikov.
“The big integration is with Gavrikov, and how he has to play within the structure, and the language we use,” said head coach Todd McLellan. “The quicker we can pick what we think is important for him, and get him up and running, the better it will be for our team.”
But Gavrikov indicated that he isn’t worried about that.
“It’s going to be better in a few days,” he said. “[Thursday versus Montreal] was the first game for me. I will figure this out. I’m trying to catch up on the fly and jump right into it. But it’s going to be OK.”
Gavrikov also noted that he feels no added pressure playing for a new team that’s in the playoff race, as opposed to his old team, the Columbus Blue Jackets.
“There’s always pressure in hockey, no matter what,” he said. “It’s just more excitement. It’s an opportunity to grow, as a player, and all of us together, as a group.”
For Korpisalo, who will get the start against the St. Louis Blues on Saturday, March 4, according to McLellan, he isn’t feeling extra pressure. But he indicated that there will be some nerves.
“For sure, I’ll be a little nervous,” he noted. “You want to make a good first impression. That’s the first thing, and then it’s about getting those points.”
“I’m excited to get in there,” he added. “I’m just trying to be me—to do the best I can, and try to help the team.”
For both players, the move to Los Angeles will be a big change for them and their families, who accompanied them on the private jet the Kings flew them to Los Angeles in.
“It’s a big adjustment for me,” said Korpisalo. “I’ve been with Columbus for eight years. I’ve never played for any other organization.”
Another big adjustment for Korpisalo waits for him at home every day.
“They came with me, and they’ll be staying here, my wife and seven-week-old baby boy,” he beamed. “It’s been busy, the last seven weeks.”
Both players can’t wait—for Korpisalo, to get things going with his new team later today, and for Gavrikov, who played in his first game with the Kings on March 2, he can’t wait to get fully comfortable with the Kings’ system.
“It’s been a hectic couple of days,” said Korpisalo. “I just want to get at it, and do the best that I can.”
“I’m excited to be here,” said Gavrikov. “They’re such a great group of guys here. They’ve got great skills. [Korpisalo] and I—we’re really excited to be here. It’s a perfect spot for us. We are hungry for a ring, and I’m sure everyone is this locker room is on the same page. It’s a huge move for us.”
Korpisalo also gave a huge nod to his new teammates for making him and his family feel so welcomed.
“It’s been awesome since the first day, even before that,” he said. “The guys were texting me, welcoming my whole family. My wife and I got texts from the guys and their wives. It’s been really great.”
That feeling appears to go in the other direction, too, in terms of the prospect of them being fast fits with the team.
“The moment those two walked in, I realized that they have some personality and character to them,” said McLellan. “They’ll fit our group well. We knew that almost right away.”
LEAD PHOTO: Newly-acquired goaltender Joonas Korpisalo, shown here during practice on March 3, 2023, at the Toyota Sports Performance Center in El Segundo, California. Photo by Gann Matsuda/FrozenRoyalty.net.
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