The Kings conducted a brisk practice Wednesday before their last extended trip of the season.
All signs say they won’t look the same when they return.
The four-game Southern swing runs into and crosses over the trade deadline Monday. While such veterans as Jeff Carter and Alec Martinez were mentioned in trade speculation before, the focus has since shifted. In addition to Carl Hagelin, the Kings’ presumed sought-after player, depth forwards Trevor Lewis and Kyle Clifford have surfaced as possible targets for buyers.
Having already seen Jake Muzzin and Nate Thompson traded, interim coach Willie Desjardins said this time of the season is tricky to navigate with talk ramped up and hovering over a team.
“I think it’s really hard for the guys,” Desjardins said. “These guys, they’ve worked hard here. They’ve put lots of time in here. That’s a hard thing when you hear all the stories out there. So it’s got to be hard on you. It’s got to affect you.
“But the only choice you have is to keep playing and play hard. What happens, happens. It has been hard for them and I think it is frustrating because they’re in a place they’re not familiar with, and that’s different for them as well.”
Hagelin, Lewis and Clifford have value as bottom-six forward pieces who play two-way games, although none is known for offense. All three have won the Stanley Cup, and Clifford and Lewis are among a handful of remaining Kings players from both their Cup-championship seasons.
Clifford has shown a different element to his game this season. His next goal will be a career-high eighth, and his 13 points are two shy of his career best.
“He’s always been able to play, but I think this year he’s kind of putting more of a focus on helping produce and scoring more and getting to the net,” Lewis said of Clifford. “Obviously his leadership has come through a lot, too.”
However the deadline changes the makeup of the team, Desjardins pointed to the professionalism the players have showed, with a depth-challenged defense, amid the departures of Muzzin and Thompson.
“It’s hard and it’s hard on the guys,” Desjardins said. “But they approach it the same way they came in and they worked hard. For me, [there should be] lots of credit to them as a group.”
Brickley’s father dies
One of the touching moments of last season was when Daniel Brickley, 23, made his NHL debut in front of his family at Staples Center.
Brickley’s father, Matt, helped Daniel develop into a coveted college defenseman from a non-traditional market in Utah. Matt Brickley fought Stage 4 colon cancer while doing so, and a Kings official on Wednesday confirmed his death.
Matt Brickley worked as a minor league official and the family had a homecoming when Daniel and the Kings played a preseason game in Salt Lake City. The Kings and Ontario Reign tweeted out their condolences.
Desjardins didn’t think Alec Martinez (upper-body injury) would travel with the team and cast doubt on Martinez joining them at some point.
“I can’t see him doing it, no, because he has to get some practice in,” Desjardins said. “Even if he’s ready, he needs a couple days of practice, for sure.”
Sean Walker “looks like he’s good” from a facial injury, Desjardins said.
When: Thursday, 5 p.m. PST.
On the air: TV: NBCSN; Radio: iHeartRadio (LA Kings Audio Network).
Update: The Kings showed line tweaks in practice, with Carter centering a line with Ilya Kovalchuk and Tyler Toffoli, while Adrian Kempe centered Hagelin and Brendan Leipsic. Defensemen Roman Josi and Mattias Ekholm are Nashville’s second and third-leading scorers. Brian Boyle has two goals in seven games with Nashville since it traded for him on Feb. 6.