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.
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.
5. How will the World Cup impact training camp?
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.
1. Who will fill the Kings’ many vacancies on defense?
Drew Doughty won the Norris Trophy last season as the NHL’s top defenseman, an honor many believed was a season or two or more late in coming to him. Jake Muzzin took strides last season toward becoming an elite defenseman. Rob Scuderi was acquired in order to provide depth and veteran leadership while Matt Greene was sidelined by an injury. If there’s one question about the Kings that looms above all the others going into training, it the one about their second and third pairs. As in, who is going to fill those slots? Alec Martinez is a serviceable No. 3 or 4 defenseman, as are Scuderi and Greene. Who are the No. 5 and 6 defensemen on the Kings’ depth chart? The Kings signed veteran Tom Gilbert from the Montreal Canadiens and Zach Trotman from the Boston Bruins during the off-season.
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 defenseman Drew Doughty had a second consecutive rough game during Saturday’s 4-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks. He took a key penalty in the third period that led to the go-ahead power-play goal for the Canucks’ Radim Vrbata. He also had a defensive rating of minus-3 in a team-leading 24:54. He also assisted on the Kings’ only goal, a power-play strike by Marian Gaborik in the second period.
Doughty also was a minus-2 in the Kings’ 3-2 overtime loss Wednesday to the Ducks, which was far from his best game of the season. He and Gaborik collided in a defensive breakdown that led to Ryan Kesler’s winning goal in OT. Doughty and Gaborik both went to cover defenseman Hampus Lindholm, leaving Kesler with plenty of open ice to set and fire a shot from low in the right faceoff circle past Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick.
Overall, Doughty’s plus-minus rating has dipped to plus-1.
The Kings’ Drew Doughty played 32 minutes, 1 second during their 2-1 victory in a Stadium Series game Saturday at Levi’s Stadium, a record for the most minutes in an outdoor game. It’s likely to last only as long as it’ll take for Ryan Suter to make his outdoor debut next season for the Minnesota Wild.
Damien Cox of Canada’s sportsnet.ca, one of the best in the business, offers a few thoughts about the state of the Kings leading into the March 2 trade deadline. It’s worth a look. Here’s the link: http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/deadline-decisions-can-kings-afford-to-boost-blueline/
Kings defenseman Alec Martinez. (Photo by John McCoy Daily News)
KINGS AT BLUE JACKETS
Faceoff: 4 p.m. TV/Radio: FSW, 790-AM
Defenseman Alec Martinez is said to be day-to-day because of concussion-like symptoms after he took a hard hit Saturday. The Kings ended a three-game losing streak with a 4-2 victory Saturday over the then-Eastern Conference-leading Tampa Bay Lightning, the fourth stop on their five-game trip. Martinez was injured in the first period. A victory today over the Blue Jackets would enable them to salvage their trip and give them back-to-back road wins for the first time since defeating the Minnesota Wild on Nov. 26 and then the Phoenix Coyotes on Dec. 4. The Kings are 22-18-12 overall, but 6-12-6 on the road after ending a four-game losing streak away from Staples Center on Saturday. Only the lowly Buffalo Sabres and Edmonton Oilers, with five apiece, had fewer road victories at the start of business Sunday. Defenseman Drew Doughty scored his first goal in 14 games Saturday. Justin Williams scored twice against the Lightning, ending a seven-game drought without a point. The Blue Jackets are 23-25-3, and will welcome Marian Gaborik back to Columbus for the first time since trading him to the Kings last March.
KINGS AT LIGHTNING
Faceoff: 2 p.m. TV/Radio: FSW, 790-AM
The Kings (21-18-12) lost their third in a row to start their five game trip and remained mired in 12th place in the Western Conference after a 3-2 defeat Thursday to the Florida Panthers. They also were five points out of the final wild-card spot. The Kings are 5-12-6 away from Staples Center, tied with the lowly Buffalo Sabres and Edmonton Oilers for the fewest road victories in the 30-team NHL. The Kings’ chances of making the playoffs were down to only 12.5 percent, according to the website sportsclubstats.com. Kings forward Jeff Carter has a defensive rating of plus-14 in home games, seventh-best in the league. Carter’s defensive rating of minus-12 on the road is 798th, however. Carter has scored 12 of his 14 goals and recorded 17 of 22 his assists at home. Defenseman Drew Doughty is the Kings’ leading scorer on the road with 14 points, including four goals. Tampa Bay is first in the Eastern Conference with a 33-15-5 record. Steve Stamkos leads the Lightning with 28 goals, tied for third overall in the NHL with two others.