Monday, September 21, 2009

Three round holes, Seven square pegs

At the mid-way point of pre-season a few things have become clear...while others are getting muddier with each shot on goal, body check in the corner and late game face off. In my Training Camp Opens blog I wrote about the top three lines being pretty much set and the real competition would be for the prized forth line. At that time - yes, just a little over a week ago - it looked like the race was between Harrold - Westgarth - Ivanans - Moller - Zeiler - Richardson - Lewis.

You can remove two guys from the discussion. It looks like Coach Murray was out in front of his own story when he told us back at Hockey Fest that Oscar Moller probably wouldn't make the team this year (he was sent to Manchester yesterday). And, it looks like Zeiler failed his essay assignment (see previous blog).

The somewhat unexpected thing is two eighteen year olds - thought to not have even a chance of making the team this year - are pressing the hockey ops group with some tough decisions. Kyle Clifford, the consensus MVP of the recent prospects camp, continues to wow team officials. Equally, and perhaps even more, impressive has been the play of the Kings top draft pick this past June, Brayden Schenn.

As noted in previous blogs, kids this young are usually better served NOT playing in the NHL. They should continue to develop their game elsewhere, while their bodies (and minds) also mature. That's taking nothing away from what they've been doing in camp. Wayne Simmonds and Oscar Moller came in last year and forced their way onto the team. Schenn and Clifford are pushing hard for a repeat.

In addition to the age and development discussion though, ice time in LA is closely connected. For these two to develop their offensive game, they need ice time. This just isn't going to happen in LA on the fourth line. With Stoll possibly missing some time at the beginning of the season, perhaps one of the kids could sneak in that spot for a few games. Or it could be Lewis getting the nod. Either way, that probably isn't a permanent roster spot.

Which brings us back to the fourth line. If Ivanans isn't traded, you probably have him as part of a five guy group that rotates in and out of the line-up. Meaning on any given night you'll see three of Ivanans, Westgarth, Harrold (who can also play D), Richardson and Clune manning the fourth line. Oh yea, did I mention Richard Clune?

Four games and less than two weeks to go. Then it's all for real!

Remember - You still have until midnight tonight to win FREE tickets to the game on 10/6 vs. San Jose at Staples Center (go here for more info).


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