Kings Feeling the Effects of Injury Bug
They’re missing a few key pieces in Trevor Moore, Gabe Vilardi, Arthur Kaliyev and Carl Grundstrom.
It isn't quite the bug that hit their blue line last season, but the Los Angeles Kings are still suffering from an injury bug at forward this season.
They're missing a few key pieces in Trevor Moore, Gabe Vilardi, Arthur Kaliyev and Carl Grundstrom.
Things are still going well, the team is 6-4 in their last ten games, but you can tell they're missing those players. Let's take a look at what they're really missing.
Moore got injured not long after signing a five-year, $21 million contract extension. He's also the biggest piece missing right now, although Vilardi's play this season might challenge that claim.
Yes, Moore's production had dried up just before his injury, with just two points in ten games before going down. But his game is about a lot more than just point production.
He was an important part of the Kings' most consistent line with Phil Danault and Viktor Arvidsson. He the perfect compliment to Danault and Arvidsson. He brings an element of speed, defensive responsibility and hockey IQ that makes those around him better.
His 19 points in 37 games weren't amazing, but he was still posting a respectable 4.3 goals above replacement, good for seventh on the team. He also plays an important role on both the penalty kill and power play.
Despite missing significant time, he is already posting career highs in both power-play assists and points. His puck-hunting and passing were a big reason the Kings' second power-play unit was finding so much success.
And despite the team's overall penalty kill struggles, he was still posting positive numbers in this area according to evolving-hockey.com.
His importance can be summed up by his 17:40 average time on ice, a number good for fifth on the team. He's a reliable swiss army knife that Todd McLellan can trust in every situation.
Vilardi's importance to this team has been one of the surprises of the season.
No one, probably not even Vilardi, would have expected him to be on pace for 31 goals through 45 games before he got injured.
Really, the fact that he was on pace for 31 goals before going down tells you enough about how much the Kings are missing him. Only Adrian Kempe and Kevin Fiala have equaled or surpassed Vilardi's 17 goals. With both Kempe and Fiala playing seven more games than Vilardi.
He brings more than just goals though. He's taken a massive step up in his defensive game this season, currently leading the Kings in even-strength defense goals above replacement according to evolving-hockey.
He's also played a big role on the first power-play unit. Finding a home as the net-front presence.
The Kings desperately lacked secondary scoring last season and Vilardi has provided that from the third line all season. Their offense looks less potent without Vilardi and they'll be hoping he can get back after the All-Star break.
On pace for 20 goals before breaking his foot blocking a shot, Kaliyev was also a major part of the Kings' newfound secondary scoring.
Doing the majority of his damage on the power play, with seven of his nine goals coming on the man advantage, the second unit doesn't look the same without Kaliyev. Alex Iafallo is doing his best Kaliyev impression but doesn't have anywhere near the same shot threat.
He was still searching for his goal-scoring touch at five-on-five but was making progress. He was becoming more assertive and confident with the puck, taking it to scoring areas instead of relying on teammates to create for him.
He's back skating again and might be back after the All-Star break, but no timeline has been given by the team.
Probably the least impactful of the injured players, Grundstrom is still a useful piece to have available for McLellan.
He brings an element of physicality not many players do in the Kings' lineup. He's a good alternative to Brendan Lemieux when the team wants physicality, but prefers a more capable player and goal-scorer.
He spent a lot of time in the press box before being injured in practice, but was still on pace for double-digits in goals and would be a good option to replace some of the other injured players.
He was posting solid analytics in his limited ice time, but made undisciplined penalties too much of a habit before becoming a regular healthy scratch.
He's also expected back after the All-Star break, and depending on where other players are at on their recovery, he could go right back into the lineup.
Health Down the Stretch:
The Kings are getting ready for a tight playoff race in the Pacific Division, and getting healthy could be key in securing their playoff position I'd be a little surprised if they didn't clinch regardless, but clinching as the one or two seed is a lot better than falling into the wild card spot.