KOVALCHUK BACK WITH KOPITAR; HAGELIN RETURN IMMINENT; ANDERSON GOES FOR GOLD

INSIDERS. A very good Friday to you. U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A!

The LA Kings held a full-team practice in the midst of a four-in-six and showed changes to their forward alignment:

Kovalchuk-Kopitar-Brown
Iafallo-Carter-Leipsic-Scherbak
Hagelin-Kempe-Toffoli
Clifford-Wagner-Thompson-Luff

Notes!

–Lo, those new offensive groupings. Tomorrow may mark the first time since the first six games of the season that Ilya Kovalchuk starts alongside Anze Kopitar. “The one thing he always does, he brings lots of energy. He’s excited to play, and that’s a good quality to have in a player,” Willie Desjardins said of Kovalchuk. “He can play in a number of different spots, which is good for us, but it’d be interesting with Kopitar – like, those are two really skilled guys. There’s a bit of a match there. Both think the game well.”

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–Defensive pairings did not show any changes. Paul LaDue appeared to be the extra, skating to the right of Alec Martinez, who is nearing a return cheap nhl jerseys china
but unlikely to play Saturday. Another update: Trevor Lewis isn’t quite close, according to Desjardins, who said, “I don’t think it’s quite soon. I think he’s still got a little ways to go. He has to go see the doc again, but he’s got to be at least two to three weeks away from playing.” [EDITOR: I’m wondering aloud if Desjardins meant “skating” instead of “playing,” because I did not believe Lewis to be in a two-to-three week range at this point.]

–Better injury news! Carl Hagelin was placed on a line. His return is imminent. “Obviously never fun to be out, the amount of time I was out, but that’s part of the process,” he said. “There were a lot of guys hurt with me which helped and got some really good work in and I should be ready to go.”

Hagelin suffered an MCL sprain on an innocent-seeming play during Los Angeles’ home loss to Vancouver on November 24 and has missed the last 20 games. He had two assists in five games prior to the injury and had struck up some chemistry with fellow countryman Adrian Kempe. “I think we were playing pretty good from game one, and we fed off each other’s speed and hopefully can continue doing that, so I’m going to try and keep up with him now when I come back,” Hagelin said.

Their speed meshes well with one another and makes the Kings a faster team. More intangibly, his presence is also important in the development for his 22-year-old teammate who has endured some growing pains in productivity during his second full NHL season.

“You have two Swedish players, Hagelin’s got lots of experience,” Desjardins said. “I think he can help Kempe with his game, and I think Kempe’s a guy that’s got more, he’s got a bigger upside still, so maybe Hagelin can help him reach that.”

In 21 games with Los Angeles and Pittsburgh, Hagelin, acquired November 14 for Tanner Pearson, has one goal and five points in 21 games. In 41 games, Kempe has five goals and 12 points.

–There will be at least one King playing for gold at World Juniors as Mikey Anderson and the United States held off Russia, 2-1, in the semifinals. They’ll face the winner of Finland-Switzerland, which starts at 5:00 p.m. PT and features 2018 first round draft pick Rasmus Kupari.

The United States is competing for its fourth gold medal at the tournament since 2010. Finland won in 2014 and 2016, their first wins since 1998. Switzerland won bronze that year, the only year they’ve medaled at the tournament.

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