Kings defenseman Drew Doughty spoke about his concussion publicly for the first time Friday, saying his recovery process was going well and that he hopes to be back in the lineup soon.
Doughty, who hasn’t played since Oct. 20 when he and Carolina Hurricanes forward Erik Cole collided, will not be in the lineup Saturday when the Kings host the New Jersey Devils. He skirted the question as to whether he is still experiencing symptoms during on-ice workouts but was upbeat.
“I feel good,” said Doughty, who skated Thursday but not Friday. “I think right now it’s just making sure I am ready to be back in game form.”
With the team on the road for the past week, he said staying in shape without a full practice was hard to do. Doughty must pass a baseline test before he can be cleared to play, and he must be able to skate two days in a row and be symptom-free before he can be tested.
Coach Terry Murray said Friday that Doughty’s return would depend on what the doctors say but that he would “pencil him in” for Thursday’s game against Tampa Bay.
As for the collision, Doughty says there was nothing dirty about it.
“He did brace himself to make the hit,” Doughty said, referring to Cole. “But I think that’s just because he saw me coming. I don’t think he had any intention of hurting me or even hitting me. It’s just kind of a case where we ran into each other and, unfortunately, I was the one who got hurt.”
Right wing Wayne Simmonds is questionable for Saturday’s game after suffering what the team called a lower-body injury during the Kings’ 5-2 victory over Dallas on Thursday.
Murray said he will wait until after Saturday’s morning skate before deciding about Simmonds, who had three goals and two assists on the five-game trip.
Ilya Kovalchuk returns to L.A. for the first time since snubbing the Kings and signing with New Jersey during the off-season. The Kings made a big effort to woo the Russian star to Southern California and met with him here for several days over the summer.
“This wasn’t the right fit for him, and that’s fine with us,” said defenseman Matt Greene, who took Kovalchuk on a tour of the Kings’ training facilities during that July visit. “Everybody’s going to be in that situation once in their career when they have a chance to choose where they want to play and the fact that he didn’t choose us doesn’t bother me one bit.”
With three goals and six points, Kovalchuk has had a slow start and was a healthy scratch last Saturday.
Only rookies and other non-veteran players took part in Friday’s morning skate.