Kings News & Rumors: Injuries, Petersen, 4th Line & More

In this edition of Los Angeles Kings News & Rumors, I break down the team’s early-season injuries and Calvin Petersen’s strong effort from his birthday game versus the Nashville Predators. I also go over head coach Todd McLellan’s comments on the fourth line and Rasmus Kupari.

Kings Suffer Through Injuries in Early Season

Even though the 2021-22 NHL season just recently got underway, the Kings already have several players out with injuries. First was Quinton Byfield; he was injured in a preseason game against the Arizona Coyotes. Throughout the offseason and during the preseason, there was a lot of debate as to whether he should have made LA’s opening night lineup or return to the American Hockey League (AHL) to start the season. All of the discussion didn’t end up mattering, though, as he will be out until at least the start of November with an ankle injury.

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

Akil Thomas, Andreas Athanasiou, and Lias Andersson also recently sustained injuries. The first two are undisclosed, while Andersson took on a groin injury. Athanasiou and Andersson are expected to return shortly and Thomas looks to be out until early November.

Related: Kings’ Newest Players Each Address a Specific Need

Brendan Lemieux is also out of the lineup after he was recently sidelined with a COVID-related issue. He played one game for the Kings so far this season, and he is expected to return soon. He performed quite well in the one contest he played versus the Vegas Golden Knights, recording a Corsi for percentage (CF%) of 77.78% — first on the team — and an 89.16 expected goals for percentage (xGF%) — second on the team.

Petersen Gives Kings a Chance To Win on 27th Birthday

Tuesday was Calvin Petersen’s 27th birthday, and he got the start in the Kings’ game versus the Predators. The NHL’s first star of last week, Anze Kopitar, stayed hot, kicking off the game’s scoring with a goal in the second period. From there, though, it was all Nashville.

Just over a minute into the third period, Matt Duchene put home his first of the season, and four minutes later, Tanner Jeannot potted the game-winning goal. The Predators controlled the game, tallying 31 shots compared to the Kings’ 26. Nashville also recorded 62 Corsi for (CF) and 3.4 expected goals for (xGF) in contrast to 46 CF and 1.3 xGF for LA. The Preds also had nearly a 60 faceoff percentage (FO%).

Despite being heavily outplayed, the Kings stayed in the game, in large part due to Petersen’s goaltending. He posted a .935 save percentage (SV%) and 0.18 goals saved above expected (GSAx) in a game where he was peppered with shots from high danger areas.

Los Angeles Kings, Nashville Predators
Los Angeles Kings at Nashville Predators 10/19/21 Shot Chart (Evolving-Hockey)

Petersen will look to continue his strong play in a season where he is expected to assume the starting role for the Kings and prove that he is the future in net.

McLellan Comments on Play of Kupari, Fourth Line

With the Kings’ recent injuries, there have been several players given a chance to get in some NHL games. One of which is Kupari. The 20th overall pick from the 2018 NHL Draft has spent the last couple of seasons with LA’s minor league affiliate — the Ontario Reign.

Rasmus Kupari
Rasmus Kupari of Karpat (courtesy Karpat)

This season, he has played two games for the Kings, and while he hasn’t gotten on the scoresheet, he is certainly taking advantage of the opportunity, showing head coach McLellan that he deserves to stay in the NHL. McLellan commented on Kupari’s play, saying:

He has great legs, the tenacity is on the puck the whole time…He shows up in chances for, where other guys aren’t right now on other lines. The ability to play both center and wing is valuable for him right now, but I think he’s got an attitude right now of I’m going to show you, and that’s great. That’s going to make others uncomfortable.

McLellan on Kupari.

In the game versus the Predators, Kupari played on a fourth line with Blake Lizotte and Carl Grundstrom. They had an impressive game, earning them ice time as the contest went on. McLellan also talked about the play of the fourth line as a whole:

The three of them were good, I thought they all had a burr up there and they wanted to prove to us as a staff, and to their teammates, that they were there to play and they played…I thought it was really good. They were rewarded with more ice time in the second and third periods, and they were involved in a lot of the game positively.

McLellan on the fourth line.

One of the Kings’ issues in the past has been forward depth. The top veterans can only do so much, so it’s great that contributions are coming from up and down the lineup. If LA continues to see solid play from their bottom-six throughout the season, their chances at the playoffs will be much greater.

Advanced Stats per Evolving-Hockey

Sign up for our regular 'Kings Newsletter' for all the latest.