CALGARY - After sitting out nine of the past 10 games, forward Derek Armstrong will draw back into the Los Angeles Kings’ lineup tonight against the Calgary Flames.
Armstrong will play on the fourth line with center Brian Boyle and left winger Raitis Ivanans, confirmed L.A. Head Coach Terry Murray after the Kings pre-game skate at the Pengrowth Saddledome this afternoon.
“He’s been sitting very patiently, a real quality guy, a veteran handling things the right way,” Murray said. “He’s been in this building many times, he knows it’s going to be a grind and he’s ready for it.”
With forward John Zeiler out of the lineup for three games as a result of his suspension for a boarding incident during a 4-3 shootout loss at the STAPLES Center on Saturday, Armstrong became the logical choice to join the fourth line against the rough-and-tumble Flames.
“It’s a tough rink to come into,” said Armstrong, who last played during a 3-2 shootout win over the Dallas Stars at home on Nov. 11. “This is probably one of the tougher ones in the league to come into. They always come out running and gunning and they play a high intensity game. It’s a definitely a good test for a young team like us that’s been playing pretty good.”
Armstrong said he’s been patiently waiting for his chance to get back into the lineup, but that he realizes that the Kings have lots of young talent up front.
“You’ve got to play the young guys here,” Armstrong conceded. “When I get a chance, I’ve got to go in and play as hard as I can. I appreciate every moment I get to go in and play a game in the NHL. I’ve accepted this role and hopefully we can continue to win. That’s the most important thing.”
In another lineup change, defenseman Peter Harrold will play tonight after sitting out the past two games, while veteran blueliner Tom Preissing will sit.
ERSBERG TO GET START
Swedish netminder Erik Ersberg is slated to get his 10th straight start in between the pipes in Calgary tonight.
“He’s very collected, he’s very calm,” Murray said of the second-year Kings netminder. “The mindset that he has and the way he plays brings confidence to our hockey club as a young group.”
Jason LaBarbera started the first 10 games for the Kings, including a 21-save performance during a 3-2 loss to the Flames in L.A. on Nov. 1.
Since then, Ersberg has played every game and has compiled a 5-2-2 record in that time.
“It’ll be fun to play in Canada … Calgary’s a good hockey town,” said Ersberg, who watched the one-goal loss to the Flames from the bench. “We get a chance to make up for that game. It was a tough game back in our building so we’ve got to try to get two points up here instead.”
GETTING BACK ON TRACK
Preparation will be the main key for the Kings to get back on track after Saturday’s loss to the Avalanche.
“The responsibility lies with every player to get themselves ready to come out and play,” said Murray, noting that his squad had an off-night against Colorado after a strong performance two nights earlier when the Kings downed the Washington Capitals 5-2. “Colorado came out and worked and we weren’t ready to match it. I think that the forecheck game wasn’t consistent.”
The Kings will have to have a better defensive effort against the Flames to get back to their winning ways, Murray added.
“We can’t have the three-on-twos coming at us that we saw against Colorado,” he said.
FORMER KINGS RARING TO GO
Calgary forwards Mike Cammalleri and Craig Conroy will do their utmost to make sure that their former team doesn’t come away with a win on their current home turf in Calgary.
“When you know guys on the other team, it makes you want to compete even harder,” said Cammalleri, who was traded to the Flames prior to last June’s NHL Entry Draft after playing five seasons in L.A. with the Kings.
Cammalleri recorded an assist when the Flames beat the Kings earlier this month.
“It was a pretty emotional game for me going back to L.A,” said the 5-foot-9, 178-pound forward, who suited up on a line with center Matthew Lombardi and right winger Jarome Iginla during Calgary’s pre-game skate earlier today. “It’s a little different being back here at home.”
Conroy, who had 22 goals and 44 assists as a member of the Kings in the 2005-06 season, said he always gets pumped up to play against his former squad.
“There’s always a little extra motivation and you want to go out there and play well against them,” said Conroy, while noting that he respects the amount of great, young talented players on the Kings. “They’re young and they have no fear out there. They’re just having fun. They’re really enjoying it. They want to be in the NHL and prove themselves. They’re a dangerous team.”
GAUTHIER RETURNS TO HIS ROOTS
For the first time since being traded away back in August of 2004, defenseman Denis Gauthier will return to Calgary to play in the Saddledome.
“It’s been a long-time coming now,” who was drafted 20th overall by the Flames back in 1995. “Just skating out there today was special, seeing the rink and being here. You could smell hockey here in the air as soon as we landed. It brings back some good memories.”
After being traded to Phoenix along with Oleg Saprykin for current Flames center Daymond Langkow, Gauthier never got the chance to play back in Calgary for the Coyotes due to a broken hand he suffered. When he was with the Flyers, Philadelphia didn’t play in Calgary until last season when Gauthier was sent to play in the minors.
KINGS PROSPECT JONES ON A ROLL WITH CALGARY HITMEN
One of the biggest surprises from L.A.’s training camp looked on from the stands in Calgary today as the Kings prepared for tonight’s game.
Goalie Martin Jones, who plays at the Major Junior level for the Western Hockey League’s Calgary Hitmen, took in the game-day skate prior to practicing at the Saddledome with his own squad.
“It’s fun to see all the guys again, to see some of the guys that shot at me and see them in a little bit bigger of a scenario,” said the 18-year-old netminder, who signed a three-year entry level NHL contract with the Kings after attending training camp as a free agent.
In 18 games with the Hitmen this season, Jones has compiled an impressive 15-2-1 record to go with 1.83 goals against average and a .924 save percentage.
He was recently named the Canadian Hockey League's Goaltender of the Week for the week ending Nov. 16 after posting a 3-0-0 record a 1.00 GAA and a .955 save percentage.
By Laurence Heinen