The Kings' entire Cup-winning roster is returning this season, thanks to a combination of player loyalty and Dean Lombardi's cap management. However, two injuries to key players, Kopitar and Mitchell, mean some choices must be made in camp.
Here's what we know about what Sutter and Lombardi plan to try before opening night:
- Carter will play at center.
- Brown will shift back to the right side.
- Willie Mitchell has a "non structural" knee issue and isn't skating, so Alec Martinez will move up to the second pairing. (Martinez-Voynov? Yes!)
The Kings are sticking by the 2-3 week diagnosis for Kopitar. As of tomorrow, it will have been one week since the injury happened in Sweden. But if Kopitar's still out on opening day--and they'll likely be cautious--Lombardi said Jeff Carter would be the first line center. Whether the top line is slated to take on the power vs. power matchups that Kopitar usually handles is a different question.
Martinez's promotion would, I assume, place two speedy young puckmovers together. Martinez has been protected on the third pair, yet killed those soft minutes, leading us to wonder if he should be given tougher assignments. Sutter sometimes bumped Martinez up with Doughty in 2012 if he wanted to juice the offense, so I find the potential of this fascinating.
Who will be at camp?
Right now we know Slava Voynov, Jordan Nolan, and Dwight King, three members of the Cup roster who spent the lockout playing in the AHL, will definitely be in camp. Loktionov, unfortunately, did not travel with them.
Darryl Sutter said he only wants about 25 players in practices. He mentioned 5 forward lines and 4 defense pairs.
While Sutter made it clear that 2013's training camp is about season prep instead of youngsters getting a chance to try out, with Mitchell hurt, they're going to need more defenseman to make an extra pair. Jake Muzzin, Thomas Hickey, Andrew Campbell, and offseason signing Andrew Bodnarchuk are all left shots.
We also need to see if they want to add another goalie. JF Berube was recently sent to Manchester. Martin Jones is usually third on the depth chart, but he could still be injured. Veteran Peter Mannino handled a lot of starts when Jones went through a rough patch this year, but currently only has a contract with the Monarchs.
A small and streamlined camp could look like this:
Carter, Gagne, Brown, Penner, Richards, Williams, King, Stoll, Lewis, Richardson, Fraser, Nolan, Clifford, Westgarth
Scuderi, Doughty, Martinez, Voynov, Drewiske, Greene (+1-2 callups?)
Quick, Bernier (+1?)
Without Kopitar and Mitchell, that adds up to 22-25 players.
If anyone else is in fact going to be called up, it will be soon. Camp begins this Sunday.
Let's guess the lines
Back when Kopitar was injured I threw together this roster idea -- shifting Brown back to RW mostly because I wanted to reunite Richards and Gagne, who had a stellar year playing together in Philly. The top two lines are 1A/1B. (I'm assuming Richards will be able to handle tough minutes again like he did for most of his career.)
As Sutter notes, if both Gagne and Penner are in top 6 form, that gives him a lot of flexibility.
Since we know a little more about Sutter's preferences now, let's play around with the roster again. If Loktionov isn't invited to camp, how would you arrange the lines?
Which defenseman do you want to step into the third pairing with Greene?
And finally, who would you invite to camp if you could?