The second day of training camp brought the first line-combination movement. Justin Williams stayed home Sunday because of flu symptoms, and taking his place on the line with Anze Kopitar and Dustin Penner was veteran winger Trent Hunter, who is in Kings camp on a pro tryout agreement. First, here’s what Terry Murray said today about Williams’ absence, and why Hunter inherited that spot for a day.
MURRAY: “Justin Williams, he texted Kinger [trainer Chris Kingsley] last night. There’s a little bit of the flu going through his family. He’s got some kids there, so who knows where it comes from. I’m hoping it’s just a 24-hour thing. … Get him away from the big group. That’s the most important thing, I think.”
It’s an important camp for Hunter, 31, who is without an NHL contract after he was traded from the New York Islanders to New Jersey this summer and had his contract bought out. Hunter had his 2010-11 season ended in November when he tore a knee ligament but is now healthy. The Kings see him as insurance policy, particularly in case Scott Parse isn’t ready to fill a regular role. Parse played only five games last season because of hip surgery, and even though he’s a full participant in training camp, some doubt remains as to the status of Parse’s hip and if he will hold up. So, for Hunter, that’s an opportunity. In parts of eight seasons with the Islanders, Hunter totaled 99 goals and 130 assists in 459 games and twice was a 20-goal scorer. Here’s what Murray said about Hunter, followed by Hunter’s thoughts on his training-camp experience so far.
MURRAY: “He’s coming off an injury from last year, missed a big part of the season. I think it’s a real good opportunity for him to come and show his stuff with the L.A. Kings. I definitely am going to put him in some exhibition games. He’s going to play three, four games. I want to give him the opportunity to see if he can make this hockey club. He’s going to obviously have to play very well to knock somebody out of a spot, but he’s an experienced player who’s got size, strength, grit to his game. He’s going to score some goals. He’s a big shooter of the puck and we’ll just let his game unfold. He’s up on the line with Kopitar today. The reason for that is, with Williams out with the flu, I think, after the first day yesterday, he’s the guy who deserved a look up with that line.”
Question: What has the experience with the Kings been like so far?
HUNTER: “After last year, and all the time I missed, I’m just enjoying being back on the ice with the guys, just being out there handling the puck and trying to learn the new systems.”
Question: Can you talk about your decision to come here? I don’t know what your options were like during the summer, but what led you to come here?
HUNTER: “It was a little bit hectic. It just kind of came down to sitting down with my agent, and we had a few options but when we looked at the situations, I think we felt like this was the best fit for me. We’d spoken a little bit with (the Kings) and we liked what we were saying, so it made the most sense to come here.”
Question: Terry said he plans to play you a lot in the preseason. What have they told you, as far as your opportunity here?
HUNTER: “They just said to come in and work hard, and that’s all I can do. I want to try to get my timing back and get comfortable. It’s been since December since I played a game, so I’m just trying to shake off all the rust and learn the systems. All I can do is work hard and see what happens.”
Question: You’re still a young guy. Does this seem like a bit of a fresh start, a reboot?
HUNTER: “Yeah. I was in New York a long time, and I’m very grateful for every opportunity they gave me, but I think it’s a fresh start for me now. Turn the page and start a new chapter in my career. I’m going to come in here and work hard and try to get that done.”
Question: Dean Lombardi mentioned how you’re a hard-nosed guy but you can score some goals here. Is that key for you, to be as versatile as possible?
HUNTER: “Absolutely. I want to try to be the best all-around player I can be. I want to be responsible in my own end and be physical, hitting guys and knocking guys off the puck. And I like to shoot the puck too. I’d like to try to contributed as best as I can, and help the team in whichever way I can.”