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    Kings make more moves before hosting Carolina Hurricanes
    • October 13, 2023

    From deep and skilled to relentless and tenacious, life won’t get much easier for the Kings as they pivot from a loss to the Colorado Avalanche into a showdown with the also-formidable Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday.

    For the Hurricanes, it’ll mostly be business as usual, though they remain without their most lethal goal-scorer, Andrei Svechnikov. His absence was certainly felt as they lost four one-goal games in the Eastern Conference Finals last year.

    For the Kings, the adjustments continued Friday as they dashed any hopes of seeing former lottery picks Brandt Clarke and Alex Turcotte in action Saturday night by sending them to the minors. But other young competitors have arrived as the Kings did round out the roster with a pair of call-ups that will enable them to dress a group of 20 players after icing 19 in their opener. That may sound like positive news, but it’s not the complete story: their flexibility came at the expense of a top winger, Viktor Arvidsson, who was placed on long-term injured reserve with a lower-body injury on Thursday.

    Among the Kings’ mix will be Jordan Spence, a right-shooting defenseman that will undoubtedly quarterback the second power-play unit as well as balance out right and left shots on the blue line. They also recalled forward Jaret Anderson-Dolan, who gives them a 12th body up front. Arvidsson’s departure and the final game of winger Arthur Kaliyev’s suspension also mean Alex Laferriere, who made his NHL debut in the Kings’ season opener and gave Coach Todd McLellan “zero hesitation” about deploying him, will be back in uniform.

    “I’m going to be pounding on somebody’s desk tomorrow to say, “I really like the way ‘Laf’ has played, I don’t think he should be going [to the minors],” said McLellan after Wednesday’s 5-2 loss to Colorado. “And we’ll figure out a way to keep him, if that cap situation and everything else works. He’s earned the right to play again in my opinion.”

    While circumstances ultimately saved McLellan’s fists and whatever office furniture he may have set them upon, there’s little discounting the opportunity presented here for Spence and Laferriere, nor the Kings’ potential to deploy a more functional lineup despite the absence of Arvidsson, a key and versatile component.

    As has been discussed widely, the Kings have achieved their turnaround from prospect-watcher to playoff-pusher through unconventional means, relying on practically every method of acquiring core talent apart from top draft selections. Holdovers from the glory years, undrafted free agents, signings from other clubs, trades and mid-round picks dominated the Kings’ roster on opening night, with one notable exception, No. 55, Quinton Byfield. He was 2020’s second overall pick. Byfield scored, albeit what was effectively an own-goal by Colorado’s Cale Makar, and showed consistent jump.

    “The other young player that I thought had a really good night, maybe his best game as a King, was 55. I thought he was all over the ice,” McLellan said. “He made great plays, not only offensively but defensively. It was nice to see him score a goal for all the hard work he did, but I thought he had a really strong night and something to build on to go forward.”

    Byfield and fuller array of Kings will next confront Carolina, whose franchise legacy starts and ends with McLellan’s counterpart, Rod Brind’Amour.

    As a player, Brind’Amour joined Kings captain Anze Kopitar, recently retired Boston Bruin Patrice Bergeron and former Red Wings (and Ducks) legend Sergei Fedorov as the only players to win multiple Selke trophies for their defensive play and also accumulate 1,000 points or more. In Carolina, it’s deeper than that: Brind’Amour, who captained the team to a Stanley Cup in 2006, has been a part of every playoff game in franchise history as either a player or a coach apart from their first appearance, when he was still a Philadelphia Flyer.

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    In the years since, he worked his way up to head coach, delivering similar results. Carolina has qualified for the playoffs and won at least one round in each of his five seasons as head coach. His sixth campaign as the Canes’ bench boss got off on the right foot with a 5-3 victory over the Ottawa Senators, with Brady Skjei and Jordan Staal turning in multipoint efforts in front of former Ducks goalie Freddie Andersen.

    Carolina at Kings

    When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

    Where: Arena

    TV: Bally Sports West

    ​ Orange County Register