Practice 3/23 – Arvidsson/Bjornfot make “progress” + Adding Physicality, Kupari Quotes, McLellaNHL Network

When you’re facing the vast injury crisis that the Kings are currently, it’s nice to see a practice that shows progression.

Yesterday’s morning skate showed progression, as the trio of Viktor Arvidsson, Tobias Bjornfot and Brendan Lemieux all joined the practice in non-contact, red jerseys. Today, the Swedish duo of Arvidsson and Bjornfot traded in those red jerseys for regular ones, participating in full in a practice that consisted of the majority of the team but not everyone from what I could tell. Lemieux practiced for the second straight day, still in the non-contact jersey.

Regardless of who else was there, however, seeing those two work their way closer to a return is great for both them and the Kings.

“That is progress,” Todd McLellan said. “We’ll see how they handled the workload and that means their return is imminent. I don’t know when, but it’s coming. Good news.”

How it shakes out heading into tomorrow remains to be seen, but McLellan did not rule out the possibility of Arvidsson or Bjornfot rejoining the lineup. I didn’t confirm it either. Until tomorrow morning we wait!

Notes –

playing physically
How about last night’s display from Rasmus Kupari?

Kupari, in Todd McLellan’s words, asserted himself on the game, taking a backseat to no one or nothing against the Predators. Nashville is a physical team, they’re a team that grinds you down and plays a demanding and heavy style of hockey. They imposed that style against the Kings in stretches, when the teams met in October and January, but last night, the Kings pushed back in several areas, with Kupari leading the charge on his line.

“All three of the players on that line did that for us last night,” McLellan said. “They played assertive, they were aggressive, they used their body to be aggressive. That doesn’t mean them running around like lunatics, hitting people, but getting to scrums, keeping plays alive, net front, blocking shots, is all physicality. I thought Ras led the way on that line, others followed, and they had a real good night.”

For a player like Kupari, a former first-round draft pick, the physicality is something that he’s had to implement into his game. In talking with him today, it was never something he really needed at the junior level, or playing overseas, because he was always a player who had the skill level to carry him through. Now, he’s working on being more of a physical presence and someone who can contribute in that way.

“Definitely, I don’t think I had any of that when I played back in Finland, so I’ve tried to add those pieces to my game,” Kupari said. “Yesterday, it was a heavy team against us, very physical game. It’s important to bring physicality, bring hits and it’s a good way to get into the game.”

Physicality for Kupari, and his linemates, can come in a variety of different ways.

Winning 50/50 battles is physicality. Winning races to loose pucks in corners is physicality. Blocking shots is physicality. And adding those different types of traits into their game can help all three of those three players, something that Kupari is embracing as of late.

“Yeah, there were a couple of good hits, but all of us can do a lot of different things, like blocking shots, being on the puck, getting into a good position and being ready to battle for 50-50 pucks. Getting there and not being afraid of it.”

McLellan shared insight into a conversation today that was had within the coaches room. He it was asked that, if Kupari was to be up for one of the league’s top awards, the Hart Trophy or the Selke Trophy, which would he be up for? As a top-end player for much of his career, and a first-round draft selection, the easy answer would be the Hart, but it’s the traits that come with the Selke that he wants to see Kupari work into his game.

When he gets to that level, on a consistent basis, the sky is the limit.

“I think, all of those first-round draft picks, they think Hart Trophy, but you can win the Selke, be Patrice Bergeron, and be an outstanding player,” McLellan said. “You still get to score goals and you do so many more things that help the team win. Ras, in my mind, is closer to that than the Hart Trophy winner, and I don’t mean that in a disrespectful way, but as soon as he gets that, and figures that out, there’s no stopping him. He’s just got to figure that out, because he’s always been the Hart Trophy winner on his teams or in his league.

Kupari Quotes
Wanted to share a few more quotes from Rasmus Kupari today, coming off what was one of his most notable performances in a Kings jersey.

Kupari spoke about feeling more comfortable at the NHL level and trying his best to utilize his best qualities to help the team. He also gave some cool insight of how Quinton Byfield was calling for the puck on his first goal, allowing Kupari to hear him coming, before he saw him coming. The results of that play were obvious. Good to chat with 89 today, after such a strong game last night.

On adjusting to the NHL game and feeling comfortable at the NHL level
Over time, it’s better and better. My speed is my strength, finding the way that I play to help the team win. The first game, last year, were a whole new world, but it’s what I dreamed about since I was a kid and now it’s a reality. I’m trying to bring something for the team and I think you can start to see what I’m capable of. It’s just keeping on working and keeping bringing that for the team.

On if he saw Byfield on his first goal scored last night
I heard him. I wouldn’t say I saw him the whole time, but I heard that he was yelling my name from him, so I took a little look and just passed it to him. It was a perfect finish.

On engaging in contact early to get himself into. agame
Yeah, I would say so. What I remember from past games is that some physicality on one of the first shifts, getting hit or battling for a 50/50 puck, I think I’ve had a solid game afterward. That’s something I think about, trying to bring it every game.

On being a part of a playoff run for the first time at the NHL level
Obviously we all know where we are, standings-wise, and we’re going there, but just focusing on every game and we’ve had good games and bad games. Just working on our game, getting that last push to get ready and try to win games. Last night was huge, definitely gave us some confidence.

McLellaNHL Network
Lastly, Kings Head Coach Todd McLellan joined the NHL Network earlier on today, giving the Kings some love on the national level. Nice to see those national folks giving the Kings, who sit in second place in the Pacific Division, some love in the postseason picture. Enjoy the interview below!

Kings are back in action tomorrow morning in El Segundo, in advance of the first matchup of the season with the Chicago Blackhawks. Puck drop is set for 7…….SEVEN PM!

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