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Short-handed Kings adjust to their new normal

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LOS ANGELES — The Kings went into battle for the first time this season on Wednesday night, yet when they hosted the Colorado Avalanche they were far from full force or even complete attendance.

Carrying 21 players due to salary cap constraints and down all the way to 19 in uniform at game time as a result of Arthur Kaliyev’s suspension and Viktor Arvidsson’s lower-body injury, the Kings also dressed an unbalanced defense corps due, in large part, to other logistical concerns.

For the players in the dressing room, this is the new normal.

“Take it day-to-day and try to stay in the present. We know we have a good team, but when you’re missing a soldier, it can have an impact,” said center Phillip Danault, who added that he while was confident in the team’s culture, the situation definitely presented a novel challenge.

In some ways, it mirrored the situation the Kings and other teams experienced in the long shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, which wreaked havoc on seemingly everything, including all the best-laid plans in sports between 2020 and 2022. That upheaval went beyond the playing surface, too. As a result of the vast adjustments that had to be made in order to complete the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs and play two seasons with varying fan attendance capacity, the NHL and its players’ association drastically re-worked their Collective Bargaining Agreement to reflect the new economic realities, reconfigure escrow processes and implement what has been a nearly flat salary ceiling to this day, likely to see its first significant increase next season.

As General Manager Rob Blake and Coach Todd McLellan have been very quick to point out, the Kings are not the only organization in this situation or a similar one with a shortened roster and, sometimes, a short bench, too.

“Three or four teams are now forced to dress 19 skaters as they are choking for cap space. On top of that, many teams are being forced to carry less than full 23-man rosters for the same lack of cap space. As it stands now, the players have collectively lost 28 NHL jobs from opening night rosters,” player agent Allan Walsh said via text message.

“Allowing the Upper Limit to rise just another $1 million would have alleviated this issue,” he added. “The NHLPA approached Gary Bettman this past summer to negotiate some flexibility to the upper limit and was rebuffed. The NHLPA understood very well what was coming.”

McCLARY HONORED

The Kings sported stickers on their helmets on Wednesday in honor of Lou McClary, the team’s NHL security representative for 42 years from its inception in 1967 all the way through 2009. McClary died in August at age 96.

Each player wore the sticker on his helmet in the position where the Ace Bailey and Mark Bavis sticker was typically displayed for one night.

“The L.A. Kings are incredibly saddened by the passing of Lou McClary, long-time NHL security representative and tremendous friend,” the Kings said in a statement. “Lou represented the Kings and hockey in Los Angeles with great pride dating back to our inaugural season. We will miss Lou’s unmatched vigor and enthusiasm, and our thoughts are with Judy, Brian, and the McClary Family at this difficult time.”

SPANISH BROADCASTS ANNOUNCED

The Kings will have a dozen home games broadcast in Spanish on Tu Liga (1330 AM) again this year, a tradition that began in the 2018-19 season with play-by-play man extraordinaire Francisco X. Rivera. His “goooooooooooooooool” calls will resonate alongside a new analyst after Nano Cortés opted not to return this season.

Broadcasts will be available Nov. 9 (Pittsburgh), Nov. 16 (Florida), Nov. 18 (St. Louis), Dec. 27 (San Jose), Jan. 2 (Toronto), Jan. 4 (Detroit), Jan. 20 (New York Rangers), Jan. 22 (San Jose), Jan. 24 (Buffalo), Feb. 10 (Edmonton), Feb. 20 (Columbus) and Feb. 24 (Ducks).

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