Rookie forward Alex Iafallo has come tantalizingly close several times to scoring his first goal. He’s doing many things right, including getting at least one shot on goal in each of the ’ first 12 games, and has fit so well with and that his average ice time of 17 minutes 8 seconds ranks third among the team’s forwards, behind his linemates.
“It’s almost there,” Iafallo said Wednesday. “I should have had a couple by now but I’m just staying positive and keeping with it.”
It’s a tribute to the quality of his overall game that Iafallo, who has three assists, remains on the top line. Kopitar hopes he stays.
“He doesn’t cheat to score goals. He’s not fishing out there. He’s playing the game the way it’s supposed to be played,” Kopitar said. “Yeah, it’s a zero still in the column but he’s had some really nice chances. It’s a matter of time.”
Kopitar suggested Iafallo needs only a lucky deflection to trigger a flood of goals.
“I’m sure it’s a little frustrating to still have that zero. But it’s going to come,” Kopitar said. “I have no doubt.”
Coach John Stevens takes into account that opponents are matching their top shutdown defense pairs against that line. He likes Iafallo’s penalty-killing skills and wants the continuity of a stable first line.
“He’s had some good looks,” Stevens said. “The one thing we’ve cautioned him about is don’t put results ahead of the process. We think he’s been a really good fit on the line. He brings a lot of things to the line that I think give the line chemistry. He’s got a really good stick. He angles well. He’s tenacious on the forecheck. So I don’t want him to start to squeeze the stick and be thinking about just offense and what the result might be.
“I think the process of how they’re playing the game has been important maybe in getting good looks, and I think it’s just a matter of time before he gets rewarded.”
Iafallo said Kopitar and Brown have been “awesome” in helping him adjust to the NHL after four seasons at the University of Minnesota Duluth.
“It’s an honor to be out there,” Iafallo said. “I’ve just got to keep playing my game, creating offense for my linemates, my teammates. … I’m just going to keep working hard and it will come.”
Winger (knee surgery in April) has resumed skating. “We’re hopeful in the next little while he’ll start being integrated back into practice,” Stevens said. Gaborik had skated before but backed off. … Left wing (upper-body injury) has been working out. “He’s still a ways away but he’s definitely getting better,” Stevens said. … First-round draft pick Gabriel Vilardi skated Wednesday in full gear for the first time since a back sprain sidelined him. Prospect Austin Wagner (shoulder surgery) is scheduled to join Ontario of the and join non drills.
When: Thursday, 7:30 p.m., Staples Center
On the air: TV: FS West; Radio: 790.
Update: The prevailed 3-2 in the teams’ first meeting on Oct. 23 in Toronto. This will be the end of a back-to-back sequence for the Maple Leafs, who were at Anaheim on Wednesday.
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