For much of the 2013-14 hockey season, Jeff Schultz lived in a furnished townhouse in Manchester owned by Monarchs head equipment trainer Mike Holden.
“I didn’t realize they got that much snow there,” Schultz said. “It was nice. D.C. doesn’t get much snow, so it kind of made things feel like winter.”
Three time zones and upwards of 60 degrees removed from his New England surroundings, Schultz is slated to make his Los Angeles Kings debut in Game 2 of the Second Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Honda Center on Monday night because defenseman Robyn Regehr has joined Willie Mitchell as injured blueliners unable to participate early in the playoff series against the Anaheim Ducks. Neither Regehr nor Mitchell skated at Sunday’s optional practice at the Toyota Sports Center, and Darryl Sutter declined to provide an update on their status.
“I’m not talking anything about injuries, ever,” he said. “It’s not something that you should have to talk about publicly. It’s to protect the player, not give the other team the advantage. Hell, they’re so smart, they didn’t even announce their goalie until after warm-up.”
“I’m not going to go anywhere with either Regehr or Mitchell. I don’t think it does me any good to talk about our injured players. It just helps the other team.”
Schultz was signed as an insurance policy during the 2013 off-season due to the uncertainty of the status of Willie Mitchell, who missed the entire 2012-13 season due to a knee injury that required a pair of surgeries. But Mitchell returned in the preseason and appeared in 76 games, totaling 12 points (1-11=12) and a plus-14 rating while averaging upwards of 20 minutes. While Schultz earned a pair of call-ups during the regular season, he played all of his regular season games with Manchester, amassing 13 points (2-11=13) in 67 games while being praised for his steadiness in serving as a mentor of sorts for the younger players on the Kings’ top affiliate.
“Actually, I had a lot of fun down there playing in Manchester, and kind of got to go down there and work on a lot of things,” he said “I had some good coaches that let me go out there and kind of play my game and get comfortable of where I need to be.”
He was in the team’s dressing room when Regehr left the game midway through the first period with his undisclosed injury. The game’s play by play log noted that the final play Regehr was involved in was when he was on a receiving end of a Teemu Selanne hit with 10:34 remaining in the opening frame.
The Kings rotated five defensemen in the Game 1 overtime win. Drew Doughty logged a game-high 33:06, Slava Voynov logged 31:08, and Alec Martinez earned a career-high 28:13 of ice time.
“You know what? The best way for us is just through experiences,” Sutter said. “We’ve dealt without Mitchell and Greene last year, Mitchell for the whole year and Greene…missed the whole season and then got hurt again before playoffs. We’ve dealt. Hey, that’s the way it works. I mean, injuries are a big part of it. If you use it as an excuse – and I’ve heard it used as an excuse – …it’s just another reason to take the wrong road.”
There were no line rushes that took part during Sunday’s optional practice, so a greater understanding of Schultz’s usage will be determined at the team’s morning skate on Monday.
“I had a little chat with [Sutter] this morning, and he said just kind of go out there and play,” Schultz said. “It’s hard to replace a guy like Robyn, but I feel like I’m capable of doing a similar job to what he can do.”
Schultz has appeared in 399 regular season and 29 playoff games, all with the Washington Capitals. For more on his 10-game performance in Washington’s 2011-12 playoff run, click here.
Jeff Schultz, on drawing into the lineup in the playoffs:
Exciting time. I worked hard all year, and didn’t think this day was going to come, but I have the opportunity to help the team win, and I’m going to go out there and do my best, and do what they ask of me to do.
Schultz, on what he recalled from his playoff experience in Washington:
It’s a whole new season. Everything’s intensified that much more. It’s just a matter of going out there and playing…your best.
Schultz, on what he took from watching Game 1:
It looks like it’s a lot of fun out there. The Ducks are a team that’s really heavy on the forecheck and they come hard, so it’s just a matter of getting back and moving pucks up and getting out of our zone.
Schultz, on playing against former coach Bruce Boudreau:
I haven’t seen or talked to Bruce in a while. I was glad to see him get the job, but business is business, and it’ll be kind of fun to see what it’s like playing against him.
Schultz, on whether he knew Darryl Sutter from his time in Calgary:
I saw him a few times when I was playing junior there with the Hitmen, and I actually met him a few days before the draft and kind of did that whole shpiel with him, but that was about it.
Schultz, on his season with the Monarchs:
They just let me go as I needed to do, and if there was anything that I needed to work on or I needed any insight from them, they were there to help me. [Reporter: Did you almost feel like a mentor to some of those kids?] Yeah, I didn’t realize how young some of those guys were. I’m sure a lot of the guys enjoyed some of the stories I had, but I tried to help some of those young guys as much as I could.
Schultz, on whether it quickly crossed his mind that he’d draw into the lineup:
Yeah. You know, I didn’t see what happened on the play. I was watching the game in the dressing room and I saw him come in. You kind of wonder, and you don’t hope he’s injured too bad, because he’s a big part of this team. Unfortunately, what happened happened, and now we’ve got to look forward and come out hard tomorrow.