When Jonathon Blum started playing hockey, it wasn’t on the ice with a pair of skates like many of his more northern counterparts. The Long Beach, Cal., native started playing in tennis shoes on the cul-de-sac in front of his house with a ball, using the gutters as goals.
Eventually, he’d transition to ice hockey playing with the California Wave and tonight, he returns to SoCal to play the red-hot Los Angeles Kings.
“It should be pretty exciting,” Blum said. “It’s always nice to come back and see some familiar faces.
“It’s pretty cool to come back and play in the place I grew up playing in, and Southern California is a rare spot for that.”
LA might be more renown for its movie stars than hockey players, but the blueliner has seen the rise in the sport in Southern California thanks to teams like the Kings and Anaheim Ducks.
He grew up during the early 90s hockey boom in non-traditional markets, and became the first California-born-and-raised player to be drafted in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft, when the Nashville Predators selected him with the 23rd overall pick in 2007.
With injuries to defensemen Keith Ballard and Clayton Stoner, Blum was recalled from the club’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Iowa Wild. Head Coach Mike Yeo said that he’s liked the job he’s done since being recalled on March 23.
“When he’s playing well, you can see that he’s got his feet moving with the puck,” Yeo said. “He’s got some composure with the puck. He doesn’t play like a young kid out there. He’s a guy who’s not going to panic.”
If playing in front of the local crowd wasn’t enough, Blum will play in his 100th career NHL game.
“It’s been a long journey with a lot of ups and downs,” Blum said. “To be able to do it in Southern California in front of friends and family is another cool thing.”
Kuemper Leaves Early
Goaltender Darcy Kuemper left morning skate early because he wasn’t feeling well, according to Yeo. The netminder participated in about half of the drills before leaving the ice. Yeo is hopeful that he’ll be okay to back up Ilya Bryzgalov, tonight’s starter for Minnesota.
Bruno Wears the Pads
Hockey Operations Advisor Andrew Brunette knows the area around the net well, but not in the capacity he saw today. With Kuemper leaving early, he threw on the pads as the players who will be scratched tonight participated in an in-zone scrimmage.
Brunette described his style as “terrible” and hopes that he is not called upon in an emergency situation tonight. He joked that he tried to stay on his feet because getting up was difficult with the pads. WildTV talked to Brunette about the experience, which you can check out here.
Yeo said that Ballard is “very close” to returning and could be in the lineup on Thursday against the Chicago Blackhawks if he continues to progress.
“He had a good practice yesterday,” Yeo said. “That was the first time he got involved in any contact and battled.”