Kings goalie Jonathan Quick is sidelined by a serious groin injury for up to three months, one big reason for concern to start the season. (File photo/Los Angeles Daily News)
No team in NHL history has won the Stanley Cup championship in October, but plenty have squandered a chance to play for it in June. The injury-depleted Kings completed the season’s first month with a lackluster 4-5-0 record and sat in sixth place in the seven-team Pacific Division.
Jonathan Quick, their standout goaltender, was placed on long-term injured reserve because of a serious groin injury suffered in a season-opening loss Oct. 12 to the San Jose Sharks. He’s not expected to play until January at the earliest, and was placed on the longer of the NHL’s two injured reserve lists.
Left wing Marian Gaborik (broken right foot), defenseman Brayden McNabb (right shoulder) and goalie Jeff Zatkoff are on the shorter IR list, eligible to return to the lineup after one week. Gaborik is out until Thanksgiving and it’s uncertain when McNabb and Zatkoff might play again.
Compounding matters, Kings left wing Andy Andreoff was forced from a 3-0 loss Sunday to the Chicago Blackhawks in the second period because of an unspecified upper-body injury. There was no immediate update on how long he might be sidelined.
It’s too soon to panic, but it’s not too soon to be concerned.
Reactions to the Kings’ 4-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers in their home-opening game Friday at Staples Center didn’t vary much. The consensus was the King must play better if they hope to win. Glaring errors cost them during the pivotal second period, according to Kings captain Anze Kopitar.
“We didn’t play the way we’re supposed to play,” Kopitar said. “A couple of bad line changes, a couple of missed coverages and they cashed in on it. We just can’t let that happen. You can’t expect to win when you let in four goals in one period. That second period was not good.”
Of playing for what could be an extended period without Quick, Kopitar added, “Yeah, he’s a big part of this team, and arguably the best goalie in the NHL, but we can’t do anything about it. A magic spell won’t bring him back. We’ve got to play with what we’ve got. We’ve got to play hard and, obviously, a lot better than we did tonight.”
Notes from the Kings’ split-squad practice Saturday …
–Injured winger Marian Gaborik was back in El Segundo. He didn’t speak to reporters about the broken foot he suffered while playing with Team Europe in the World Cup of Hockey. He was wearing a protective walking-boot style cast on his right foot and needed the aid of crutches to get around the training facility.
–Jonathan Quick practiced with the B Group of players, but it remained to be determined when he would make his exhibition debut in goal, according to assistant coach David Payne. Quick could play in Sunday’s exhibition against the Ducks at Honda Center. Or it could come in exhibitions Friday or Saturday in Las Vegas.
–There’s no exact timetable for the return of Drew Dougty, Anze Kopitar and Jake Muzzin from the World Cup, Payne said. The three are due some rest and recovery time after Doughty and Muzzin’s Team Canada defeated Kopitar’s Team Europe in the two-game World Cup final. They mighty not play in any exhibitions.
–The Kings’ A Group, which includes Jeff Carter, will face the Edmonton Oilers in an exhibition Sunday in Vernon, British Columbia. Darryl Sutter will coach the team. The Kings’ B team faces the Ducks with Payne and Mike Stothers, coach of the Ontario Reign of the AHL, behind the bench at Honda Center.
Kings center Nick Shore continues his resume-building from last season, when he played 68 games and scored three goals and 10 points. He didn’t exactly light the league on fire offensively, but he did receive a daily tutorial for this season and for those to come.
“You have two world-class centermen to watch every day,” the 24-year-old Shore said of Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter. “You get to watch them every day in practice and see how they play. It’s definitely a learning experience and you try to take as much as you can from it.
“’Kopi’ does pretty much everything well. He’s so poised with the puck, and he does it on both ends. He has just about as complete a game as it comes. It’s the same with Jeff. He gets up and down the ice so quick that it creates a lot of chances. Both are huge parts of the team.”
Now it’s time for Shore to put the lessons to good use.
The Kings vs. Kings scrimmage Sunday afternoon in Ontario is short on veterans. Drew Doughty and Jake Muzzin are with Canada in the World Cup in Toronto. Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik are with Team Europe. Game 1 of the final round between Canada and Europe is Tuesday, so they won’t be back for exhibitions Monday against Arizona or Wednesday against the Ducks.
Goaltender Jonathan Quick (Team USA) also isn’t playing Sunday
Among the top prospects, the Kings’ white team features forwards Adrian Kempe and NIc Dowd. The black team features forwards Andy Andreoff and Michael Latta.
Dustin Brown, Jeff Carter, Jeff Zatkoff are scratched.
Quick and general manager Dean Lombardi will be back sooner than anticipated. Team USA was eliminated from the World Cup with a loss to Canada on Tuesday in Toronto and played a meaningless round-robin finale Thursday against the Czech Republic. Doughty and Muzzin might be away for a while longer. Canada is expected to reach the championship round. Gaborik and Kopitar advanced with Team Europe and there’s no telling how far they might go after finding their game after a lackluster series of preliminary games. It’s uncertain how their absences might impact the Kings’ training camp. Avoiding injuries is on everyone’s mind during the World Cup and the Kings cannot afford a serious (or even a minor one) one to any of their top players, especially Doughty and Kopitar.
3. How will a change in captaincy impact the Kings?
Dustin Brown was stripped of the Kings’ captaincy during the off-season, and he wasn’t happy about it. Kopitar was given the “C” in a leadership shakeup that was directed by team management rather than the players. Brown’s production slipped steadily in recent seasons, including in 2015-16, when he scored 11 goals and 28 points. It was the fourth consecutive season in which he failed to reach 30 points after he topped 45 points in six in a row. At times last season, he was shifted from roles on the top two lines and demoted to the fourth line. Brown sounded off about the switch during the summer, calling it “a tough pill to swallow.” Brown did not fault his teammates and said Kopitar would be “great at it” in his new role as captain. It remains to be seen whether that’s the end of the story.
2. Who will earn jobs on the Kings’ third and fourth lines?
The Kings face significant questions about their scoring depth, as well. Anze Kopitar won the Selke Trophy last season as the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game after he led the Kings in scoring for the ninth consecutive season. He had 74 points, including a team-leading 49 assists. Tyler Toffoli scored a Kings-leading 31 goals, and Jeff Carter added 24. No one else on the current roster had 20 or more. In fact, no more else had more than the 15 that Tanner Pearson scored. Milan Lucic scored 20 last season, but signed with the Edmonton Oilers as a free agent in the off-season. So, where will the goals come from in 2016-17? Training camp should provide ample opportunity for some of the Kings’ top prospects to earn jobs as third- and fourth-line forwards.
Here’s the Kings’ schedule for the first three days of training camp:
Friday: Group A practice begins at 10 a.m. at the Kings’ practice facility in El Segundo (555 North Nash Street). Group B practice beings at 2 p.m.
Saturday: Group B practice begins at 10 a.m.; Group A starts at 2 p.m.
Sunday: Kings vs. Kings, Citizens Business Bank Arena, 3 p.m.
There are 64 players expected to attend camp, although some will be delayed because of their participation in the World Cup in Toronto (Drew Doughty and Jake Muzzin for Canada, Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik for Team Europe and Jonathan Quick for Team USA). The breakdown of the groups wasn’t announced.
Kings center Anze Kopitar was named Tuesday as Team Europe’s captain for the World Cup of Hockey, which begins Sept. 17 in Toronto. Kopitar, of Slovenia, was joined in the team’s leadership group by alternate captains Zdeno Chara of Slovakia and the Boston Bruins and Mark Streit of Switzerland and the Philadelphia Flyers. Chara and Streit are defensemen.
Kopitar was named the Kings’ captain in June, replacing Dustin Brown in a shakeup in the wake of last season’s first-round playoff exit at the hands of the San Jose Sharks and their failure to make the postseason in 2015. The 29-year-old Kopitar won the Selke Trophy as the NHL’s top defensive forward and was honored with the Lady Byng Trophy for gentlemanly play this past season.