Kings News & Rumors: Lemieux’s Return, Edler’s Injury, & More

In this edition of Los Angeles Kings News & Rumors, I’ll be discussing the return of Brendan Lemieux, Alex Edler’s injury, and John Hoven’s prospects update that he gave during the Minnesota Wild game.

Lemieux Returns From Suspension

Last Saturday’s game against the Wild marked the first game back for Lemieux after his five-game suspension. He was slotted back onto the fourth line, which had a slightly new look with Trevor Moore playing center and Carl Grundstrom at wing. Lemieux continued his strong run of form this season, grabbing the game-winning goal halfway through the third period. This was his fifth goal of the season, which makes him the joint fourth highest goal scorer on the team, tied with Arthur Kaliyev, Viktor Arvidsson, and Carl Grundstrom. This is by far the best start to a season in Lemieux’s career, as he is on pace to break the 20-goal mark for the first time. While it’s unlikely he actually reaches that mark, he’s been a key part of this Kings team, providing much-needed sandpaper and goals to the bottom six.

Brendan Lemieux Los Angeles Kings
Brendan Lemieux, Los Angeles Kings (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NHLI via Getty Images)

He was playing the role of goal scorer and agitator on Saturday as well. After scoring the go-ahead goal, he skated by the Wild bench and managed to get everyone riled up. Enough so, in fact, for Wild alternate captain Marcus Foligno to spray Lemieux with his water bottle. The frustration didn’t stop there either, as Foligno shared his opinion on Lemieux after the game.

“Just him being him. Scores one goal and then comes by our bench and thinks he’s Sidney Crosby out there. That stuff bothers ya. It sucks it’s so late in the game. You’d like to see a response, but he’s not really out there anymore. So it’s just one of those things where it’s just you got to forget about that guy. He’s an agitator, and not a very good one at that.”

(from ‘Brendan Lemieux and the Kings take a bite out of the Wild’s win streak’ The Athletic, 12/11/21)

Despite Foligno’s claims that Lemieux isn’t a very good agitator, it would appear that he did a very good job of agitating the Wild on Saturday. That’s exactly what the Kings need from him too, because without him they desperately miss a player who brings this element to the team. Having the best goal-scoring season of his career is just a cherry on top for the Kings.

Alex Edler’s Injury

In more disappointing news, Edler left the game early in the first period after a collision with Wild forward Brandon Duhaime. It was a fairly standard play, with both players looking to engage physically before getting to the puck. Unfortunately, Edler was taken into the boards and fell awkwardly onto his ankle. It was hard to tell at first what exactly happened, but after watching the replay, you could see the damage to his ankle.

Related: Kings Check-In: Kopitar, Quick, & Poor Finishes

There’s still no news on how long Edler will be out, but he was placed on injured reserve Sunday, and Christian Wolanin was called up. For now, I imagine Olli Maatta will replace Edler in the lineup, with Wolanin serving as the seventh defenseman. Things could change quickly if Maatta struggles though, as we know Wolanin can play at the NHL level. The team has a few other options for replacing Edler as well, but I’ll be discussing that in another article.

Mayor’s Manor Prospect Update

During the second intermission of the Wild game, fans were given an insight into what the plan is for some of the team’s prospects. Hoven came on to discuss mainly Quinton Byfield and Gabe Vilardi, while also dropping some tidbits on Alex Turcotte and the players heading to the World Junior Championship. It appears that Byfield is progressing well with the Ontario Reign, and the plan is to have him up with the Kings sometime around Christmas and he’ll be slotted into the third line center role.

Quinton Byfield LA Kings
Quinton Byfield, Los Angeles Kings (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

This is great news for the Kings, but also raises some questions about what to do with Rasmus Kupari, who is currently occupying that spot. I would love to see Kupari get moved to wing full-time when Byfield returns, as that was the plan for him coming into the season. A move to wing could help him rediscover some of his offense, but it then creates another problem of what to do with your other wingers. How the roster shapes up when Byfield returns will likely come down to who is healthy at the time, so it’s difficult to guess what the lines will look like right now.

Gabriel Vilardi LA Kings
Gabriel Vilardi, Los Angeles Kings (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

On Vilardi, Hoven confirmed that he was sent to the American Hockey League (AHL) so he could be converted to a full-time winger, an inevitable position change in my opinion. He also said that Vilardi would be given plenty of time to learn this position in the AHL, and that he is scheduled to come back up closer to the trade deadline. With this in mind, I have to imagine we’ll see some movement at the deadline. The Kings will have to make room for their prospects at some point, as there simply aren’t enough roster spots. I think Andreas Athanasiou is a player we could see move at the deadline, a player whose contract is up after this season and is unlikely to re-sign. His solid play so far is great for the Kings, as it will drive his stock up for a potential trade. Teams looking for a middle-six forward who can generate goals can do a lot worse than Athanasiou.

Kings Trying to Start a Winning Streak

The Kings started their tough eight-game stretch with two wins over the Wild and Dallas Stars and will be hoping to keep the wins flowing. We’ve seen this team catch fire and go on a big win streak before, but it will be a more difficult task this time around. They play some of the best teams in hockey over the next two weeks and don’t play a team with a losing record again until Dec. 27, against the Arizona Coyotes. This could be a make-or-break stretch for the Kings, which drastically changes how the team approaches the rest of the season.

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