With the team arriving late from St. Louis last night, today’s practice was optional on ice and only four players – Raitis Ivanans, Jon Klemm, Dan Cloutier and Derek Armstrong – participated in drills with the coaching staff.
The rest of the players, in an attempt to get refreshed and revitalized after playing four games in six nights, took practice outdoors and threw the football around and kicked soccer balls at the park across the street from Toyota Sports Center.
The biggest news from practice, however, was that Jason LaBarbera had undergone sports hernia surgery this morning and is out for the season.
LABARBERA OUT FOR SEASON
LaBarbera, who has not played since Feb. 18 due to a groin injury, will miss the remainder of the season after undergoing sports hernia surgery this morning. His 2007-08 season, the first of a two-year contract extension singed on July 3, 2007, will end with LaBarbera posting a 17-23-2 mark, stopping 1,220-of-1,341 shots (.910 SV%) with a 3.00 GAA.
"He is going to be out for that,” head coach Marc Crawford said. “It is unfortunate, he has had a decent season for us. I think he has proved he is a capable of being an NHL goaltender. He had the bulk of the time for us. It is a tough injury, but on the positive side he will have a long period of recovery and hopefully he can start fresh at the start of next season."
With LaBarbera out, the goaltending duties will fall to rookie Erik Ersberg and veteran Dan Cloutier.
Ersberg, the first Swedish goaltender in Kings history, has stopped 79 of 85 shots (.929 save percentage) in his first three NHL games, though he has not earned a win, posting an 0-1-2 mark.
“I thought he has played well, his rebound control has been quite good. He skates well, he looks like he has a good demeanor and an overall good package in terns of what he does in the net,” Crawford said. “It is unfortunate for him, he has been there and probably deserves to have his first win by now but hasn’t gotten it.”
Regardless of his 0-1-2 start, Ersberg has enjoyed his three games with the Kings.
“It was a great experience to start some games and play some games up here,” Ersberg said. “It was a lot of fun. We didn’t get too many points, but I think I played okay.”
When asked about his rebound control, something that Crawford had pointed out as a positive, Ersberg said: ”It is something I worked on this year in Manchester with the goalie coaches. It is an important part of the game and helps your ‘D’ out, so if you can do that well, it makes them not have to take some long shifts.”
"I think that what we are doing now is saying 'hey, Erik has been playing well and let's see if he can continue to play real strong.' Obviously, he isn't tired or anything,” Crawford said. “Dan [Cloutier] came in here and he had no pressure on him with Jason being the No. 1 goalie, and he played well.
”But since Jason's injury and he became the guy, so to speak, maybe we can lesson that burden on them. Both of them just have to go out to play. We are in a situation where we are seeing where these players are at. It is exciting, Ersberg is young and looks like has a little something, much like at the start of the season when we had a young goaltender, Jonathan Bernier, come in and show that he had something you could look forward to. He is going to get a chance to play right now, we are excited for him."
KINGS VS. OTTAWA ALL-TIME
Thursday’s game will mark the 21st all-time meeting between the Kings and Senators. Los Angeles is 5-1-1 (1 tie) in its last seven head-to-head meetings with Ottawa and 8-1-1 (1 tie) all-time against the Senators at home.
BLAKE APPROACHING ANOTHER MILESTONE
Rob Blake is only one point away from 700 in his NHL career (220-479=699) and nine points away from 500 in his Kings career (158-333=491). Blake is also only nine games away from becoming the fourth player in Kings history to play in 800 games. He is already the Kings all-time leader among defensemen with 158 goals, 333 assists and 491 points.
THREE 20-GOAL SCORERS AND COUNTING
The Kings have three 20-goal scorers this season (Dustin Brown, Alexander Frolov and Anze Kopitar). Michael Cammalleri has 18 goals and Patrick O’Sullivan has 17. If those two cross the 20-goal plateau the Kings would have five 20-goal scorers for the first time since 1993-94 (Luc Robitaille, Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri, Mike Donnelly and Rob Blake). [Note: In 2005-06, only Mark Parrish’s goal totals with the Kings were counted, not adding his goals with the New York Islanders.]
NORTHEAST SCORING BARRAGE
The Kings have scored 19 goals in three games against Northeast Division opponents this season (6-8 vs. Boston on Oct 12, 8-2 vs. Buffalo on Dec. 6 and 5-2 vs. Toronto on Jan. 10). The Kings will host the other two Northeast Division opponents on this homestand (Ottawa tonight and Montreal on Saturday). This is the first year since 2003-04 the Kings will play all six Canadian Teams at home.