Andrej Sekera adjusting to the Kings and their style
New side on defense, new team, new conference and a new set of expectations.
Suffice to say, there was an awful lot thrown at defenseman Andrej Sekera in his Kings debut on Friday night at Anaheim. The Ducks pulled off a third-period rally and beat the Kings, 4-2.
Game 2 of the Sekera Era will be on Sunday afternoon in Winnipeg.
“It’s a big adjustment coming into this conference,” Kings Coach Darryl Sutter said after a brief practice on Saturday afternoon in El Segundo. “A player that’s never played in this conference. It’s not just step in and away you go. It doesn’t matter what position you are … it’s not easy.
“It’s a big difference, obviously, in not knowing personnel, if you’re the player. And probably the style of play and also for him would be the importance of games.”
Sekera, who was acquired in a trade with the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday, has not been in a playoff game since the 2010-11 season, when he was with the Buffalo Sabres. He has represented his native Slovakia often at the international level, most notably playing in the Olympics in Vancouver in 2010 and Sochi last year.
“He’s played in zero meaningful [NHL] games in the last how many years?” Sutter said. “Quite a few. Probably the more meaningful games would be international.
“It’s a big adjustment. How did he play? It’s like you asked after the game. You want me to break it down? He was OK.”
Kings defenseman Robyn Regehr joined them from the Sabres, also, but he had years of Western Conference experience, plenty of it under Sutter’s watch, when they were in Calgary together.
“Reg knew how to play. He knows how to play,” Sutter said.
Sekera, who had played his entire career in the Eastern Conference, aimed for a straightforward approach in his first game with the Kings. He was paired with Regehr, which made sense since they were together in Buffalo, at times.
“Just keep it simple and pass the puck to the first open guy,” Sekera said of his plan to acclimate as he learns the new system and sees what his teammates’ habits are. “It makes his life easier and also mine. That’s my approach. Try to support the guys and try to be a good teammate.”
Regehr said that he felt they had a decent first period together and got bogged down a bit in the second period with longer shifts.
“That didn’t help,” Regehr said. “We just got to continue to work together as best we can and talk a lot. For him, he was used to playing the left side this year in Carolina, and now he’s moving over to the right and having a new partner, a new team, a new way you want to do things.
“There’s a lot for him. So I think for us is the big thing to communicate as much as we possibly can and help one another out that way.”
Regehr, meanwhile, was intact after his latest close encounter with a puck in the Anaheim game. He had to leave the game briefly after taking a shot off his arm, continuing a recent run of strange and bad luck.
“It can go for five or 10 games and all kinds of stuff happens to you,” said Regehr, who practiced Saturday. “Then you can go for a good streak where everything feels pretty good and you’re not getting stitches and getting hit by pucks.”
He said his arm went “numb,” and couldn’t find the puck.
“I was looking around the ice and I looked down and saw the puck was wedged in between my arm and the elbow pad,” Regehr said.
“It was the first time that’s ever happened to me. So I left it in there until the whistle went. And then I shook it free.”
When: 1 p.m. PST.
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Etc.: The Jets are getting used to extra time this season. They have had 22 games go to a shootout or overtime — most in the league — and one of their shootout wins came in an up-and-down game against the Kings on Jan. 10, a 5-4 win. That was also the game in which Kings rookie left wing Tanner Pearson suffered a broken leg, which required surgery. Pearson is improving, and there remains a chance he could return before the end of the regular season.
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