NHL players attempt — probably without great success — to insulate themselves from trade talks, and it’s that time of year again, with the league’s trade deadline coming up on Feb. 27.
The Kings, the lowest-scoring team in the NHL, have had their name attached to every high-scoring forward who is reportedly available on the market, with Columbus star Rick Nash joining that list this week.
The Kings, widely expected to contend for the conference title at the start of this season, now find themselves in a battle simply to make the playoffs. After Thursday’s 1-0 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes, the Kings fell behind the Coyotes and into eighth place.
There’s little time to rest, as ninth-place Calgary visits Los Angeles on Saturday. In the meantime, trade discussions will continue to swirl in the media. Justin Williams, who has been traded twice in his NHL career, said he does his best to ignore the chatter.
“The media has everything hyped up,” Williams said. “It’s the same as it always was, but the media has everything hyped up like it’s some sort of national holiday. These are our lives we’re dealing with, our jobs, and it has kind of turned into a circus a little bit, with rumor websites and people talking.
“But it’s still the same for us. I’ve learned, throughout my time, not to go on any of those websites. I don’t even look at stat sheets before a game. You just try to steer clear, and focus on your game.”
–The Kings got some good news on the injury front. Simon Gagne, out since Dec. 26 because of a concussion, has started skating and doing drills. Jarret Stoll, injured last Thursday, is also skating and might only miss a few more days. The big news, though, is Gagne’s return to the ice. Gagne, who has a history of concussions throughout his NHL career, did very little physical activity in the first six weeks after his injury, but started skating last Friday and has been on the ice for approximately 30 minutes in each of his sessions. This week, Gagne said he was still trying to work himself into shape, through conditioning skating, and said he doesn’t yet feel 100 percent and doesn’t have a timetable for his possible return. –Mike Richards’ preparation got a little more scrutiny this week. Richards, throughout Wednesday and through Thursday’s morning skate, was trailed by a camera crew, as Richards is scheduled to be featured on the next episode of “NHL36,” a behind-the-scenes program broadcast on NBC Sports Network and the NHL Network. The show, which will be broadcast for the first time on Feb, 22, takes a look at a 36-hour period in a player’s life, on and off the ice. QUOTE TO NOTE: “Anybody who says they’re not (scoreboard watching) is going to have some time up there, when they get to the gates… Anybody who says they’re not, they’re not telling you the whole truth.” — Kings coach Darryl Sutter, on whether he tracks other games when the Kings aren’t playing.
ROSTER REPORT PLAYER NOTES: –RW Dustin Penner was a healthy scratch for the third consecutive game, and there’s no indication as to when Penner might get back in the lineup. Penner, who is making $4.25 million this season, has only five goals and eight assists in 43 games this season and has been wildly inconsistent. Still, Penner had regularly been a top-six forward for the Kings until last weekend, when coach Darryl Sutter made Penner a healthy scratch in favor of rookie LW Dwight King. Asked, this week, what Penner needed to do in order to get back into the lineup, Sutter said, “Work your (butt) off. Then you get a chance to play again. If you don’t, you don’t.” –D Davis Drewiske got a chance, for the first time, to show coach Darryl Sutter what he can do in a game. Drewiske, on the Kings’ roster all season, replaced D Alec Martinez in the lineup. Drewiske had appeared in only seven of the Kings’ previous 57 games, and had yet to play since Sutter took over for fired coach Terry Murray in late December. Drewiske had been a healthy scratch from the previous 24 games. A stay-at-home defenseman, Drewiske gives the Kings a more physical element than Martinez, who is a puck-mover who had been a part of the team’s second power-play unit. –LW Dwight King, along with RW Jordan Nolan, is getting a chance to prove himself at the NHL level. King was a fourth-round pick of the Kings in 2007 who had a six-game stint in the NHL last season but didn’t record a point. After a solid start to this season with the AHL’s Manchester Monarchs, King got the call to join the Kings last week after RW Jarret Stoll suffered an injury. King is a big-bodied (6-foot-3, 220 pounds) winger who moves well for his size but isn’t considered a sniper. He had 24 goals in the AHL last season. Stoll is set to return to the lineup in a few days, so the challenge will be for King to show that he deserves to stay in the NHL and, perhaps, can thrive in a third- or fourth-line role. MEDICAL WATCH: –Jarret Stoll (lower body) will be on injured reserve until at least Feb. 17. –Simon Gagne (concussion) was put on injured reserve on Dec. 28 and is out indefinitely. –Scott Parse (hip) was put on injured reserve on Nov. 9 and underwent surgery on Dec. 2. Parse will be out until at least early April and might be out for the season. GOALTENDERS: –Jonathan Quick –Jonathan Bernier DEFENSE PAIRINGS: –Rob Scuderi, Drew Doughty –Willie Mitchell, Jack Johnson –Davis Drewiske, Matt Greene FIRST LINE: –LW Dustin Brown, C Anze Kopitar, RW Justin Williams SECOND LINE: –LW Dwight King, C Mike Richards, RW Jordan Nolan THIRD LINE: –LW Kyle Clifford, C Andrei Loktionov, RW Trevor Lewis FOURTH LINE: –LW Brad Richardson, C Colin Fraser, RW Kevin Westgarth