Adrian Kempe doesn’t stay up at night thinking about it. There’s no point wondering about something he’ll never know.
Would he have been considered for Sweden’s Olympic team if NHL players were allowed to play in next month’s Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea?
“I think I’ve played well this year, but it’s a hard team to get into,” Kempe said. “It’s something you dream about, and playing the World Cup and world championships. It’s one of my goals for my career, for sure. But I mean, it’s kind of hard cracking the lineup. They’ve got a lot of guys who have been playing for a long time. It’s something I don’t think I would [be considered for], but, I mean, you never know.”
The nonissue really speaks to Kempe’s development. In his first full NHL season, he’s being leaned on to fill the Kings’ No. 2 center spot vacated by Jeff Carter. Kempe pushed his goal total to 12 on Tuesday, and he’s plus-11 through 39 games even though he has averaged just over 13 minutes of ice time per game.
Kempe also has drawn some top road defensive assignments, including Edmonton Oilers star Connor McDavid for much of Tuesday’s game. Kings coach John Stevens said that’s where Kempe has made strides.
“Quite honest, we talked to [Anze Kopitar] on what we though the matchups were going to be before the game, and we thought it would be Adrian, and guys like Kopi were excited about it because they thought they could skate with a guy like Connor,” Stevens said. “It’s a big challenge, but I think some of our young players have really grown immensely in that sense on the defensive side of the puck.”
The Kings will need Kempe to continue growing. Carter is walking un-aided in his recovery from a lacerated ankle tendon but general manager Rob Blake said there remains no timetable for his return. Blake did liken it to getting a player at the March 3 trade deadline, though.
“We’ll get him for nothing,” Blake said.
Patrick Maroon is suspended
Edmonton’s Patrick Maroon was suspended two games for an illegal hit on Drew Doughty during Tuesday’s game. Maroon, a former Ducks forward with no previous history of supplemental discipline, briefly knocked Doughty out of the game and the Kings scored three goals in the ensuing power play.
“I think he’s an honest player,” Stevens said. “But the play happened and they made the right call. We handled it the way we should handle it.”
Managing Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Quick has made six consecutive starts and played in 32 of 40 games, which prompts the usual question about how the Kings use him without overusing him. Backup Darcy Kuemper has not played since Dec.16.
Stevens said they’re not going to force a goaltender into the lineup but will look for spots to keep Kuemper active. The workload has been dictated by the schedule, matchups and, of course, Quick’s play.
“We’re going to make sure we manage his fatigue,” Stevens said. “When he’s sharp and playing really well, we’re not just going to take him out of the net to take him out of the net. I think Darcy understands that.”
When: Thursday, 6 p.m. PST.
On the air: TV: FS West; Radio: 790