Rest or rust is always an issue at this point in the season as coaches and players balance two apparently conflicting goals before the end of the regular season. Healing old wounds (and avoiding new ones) is critical if a team wants to make a long run in the postseason. Staying sharp with only a few meaningless regular-season games remaining is important, too. But you can’t win in the playoffs without healthy players. Many a team has ended the regular season with a limp.
Consider the case of Kings defenseman Drew Doughty, who suffered an apparent left shoulder injury while making a routine-looking check on the San Jose Sharks’ Tyler Kennedy on Wednesday. Doughty did not return to the game and the Kings said he suffered an unspecified upper-body injury. The Kings lost the game 2-1, but Doughty’s health was of far greater concern.
Doughty played in his 199th consecutive game Wednesday, but it wasn’t immediately clear whether his streak would continue when the Kings (45-27-6) faced the Canucks (34-32-11) on Saturday. Vancouver is all but eliminated from the playoff race; the Kings are locked into third place in the Pacific Division. Most likely, the Kings will play the Sharks in the first round.
The smart money is on Doughty sitting out until he’s back to something close to 100 percent. Shoulders are tricky things. You can’t play the hard-nosed style the Kings do without having two healthy shoulders. Or knees. Or ankles. Or you name it. So, expect to see Kings coach Darryl Sutter give some of his best players a little bit of rest here and there for the rest of the regular season.
Better to lose a little now and rest up for the more important games coming up.