Kings inject youth into their lineup by recalling Sheldon Rempal
“Young Sheldon” would be a good way to describe the newest changes to the Kings’ lineup.
Unlike the television program of that name, this is no comedy.
Smarting from a 1-3 trip that saw them outscored, 9-2, in the final two games, the Kings recalled forward Sheldon Rempal in a nod toward youth, while Jonathan Quick returned to the net in practice Wednesday. They changed the line combinations to include rookies Rempal, Austin Wagner and Jaret Anderson-Dolan on the bottom six, while Tanner Pearson and Kyle Clifford appeared to be extras.
“We need something to change, right?” coach John Stevens said. “We changed the lines a little bit, hoping to get some good energy and some of those young guys get an opportunity to help us with their skill level and speed and competitiveness [that] they bring. I thought it was a good look for us today.”
Tyler Toffoli moved to the top line with Anze Kopitar and Alex Iafallo. Ilya Kovalchuk skated with Michael Amadio and Jeff Carter. Wagner was with Adrian Kempe and Trevor Lewis, and Rempal and Anderson-Dolan flanked Nate Thompson on the fourth line.
If the Kings stick with that lineup Thursday, they would play three forwards with a total of seven NHL games under their belt. Prior to Rempal’s recall, the Kings were one of the older teams in the league with an average age of 28.3.
They also averaged 1.5 goals a game in four road games.
“I think whenever we’re not scoring goals and we haven’t been winning games, that’s natural,” Thompson said. “I think coaches for any teams will shake things up and switch the lines try to get some chemistry going.”
Rempal was the logical choice to get the call. He led American Hockey League rookies with four goals and eight points in four games for the Ontario Reign. Getting a hold of his family to drop the big news took a while, though.
“I texted both my parents, like, ‘Hey, I need to talk to you, if you’ve got a minute,’ ” Rempal said.
Rempal would be the third Kings player to make his NHL debut this season. He’s actually older at 23 than Wagner and Anderson-Dolan and, unlike those two, was an undrafted free agent, having signed a two-year contract upon the end of a two-year career at Clarkson that ended in the NCAA regional semifinals.
Rempal appreciates just being in position to make his debut.
“To think back your whole life, I was a little bit of a late bloomer, so a little bit of a longer path for myself,” Rempal said. “Just looking back on the whole ride throughout my hockey career, the ups and downs and the way it’s led to this point.”
Quick seems close to returning from a lower-body injury. He took shots in practice and, if he progresses, has opportunities to play Thursday or Saturday, for the first time since the season opener.
Stevens didn’t yet know how Quick responded to Wednesday’s practice but Quick said he’s trending the right way.
“You’re at the point where you’re trying to get your game ready when you’re practice with the team,” Quick said. “If I thought I’d be risking any further injury, I wouldn’t have been practicing with the team.”
Dustin Brown (broken finger) skated in a no-contact jersey. He is not eligible to return until the end of the month.
UP NEXT VS. NEW YORK ISLANDERS
When: Thursday, 7:30 p.m.
On the air: TV: FS West; Radio: iHeartRadio (LA Kings Audio Network).
Update: The Islanders are in the post-John Tavares era under first-year coach Barry Trotz. Mathew Barzal won the Calder Trophy last season as top rookie. The Kings are 7-0-1 against the Islanders in the last eight games at Staples Center.
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