Good afternoon from the skies above the Mountain Time Zone, Insiders. The Kings held an optional skate that began shortly before 10:00 a.m. in which both goaltenders took part. Several notes:
-Jordan Nolan, who caught the blunt force of Korbinian Holzer’s lower-body in a collision that included leg-on-leg impact, did not skate. There were a few ominous undertones when the word after Saturday’s game was that the team would “hopefully know more tomorrow,” according to a hockey ops executive, but on Sunday there was additional information that while optimistic, didn’t completely eliminate concern over his near-term availability. “Don’t think it is too serious” was the word from hockey ops today. Darryl Sutter did not speak with reporters, so it wasn’t possible to gain any information from the head coach.
-Adrian Kempe, who didn’t play after the shift following Dustin Brown’s goal, skated on Sunday. While his availability for Monday’s game in Minnesota might not be learned for another 22 hours or so, it does not appear as though he will be dealing with anything that should keep him sidelined for any concerning length of time. Paul LaDue was also among the skaters who practiced Sunday and expressed confidence about a potential return in the near future.
-The Kings are in transit to face a Minnesota Wild team on Monday that leads the Western Conference with 84 points,. Though the Wild are 6-3-1 in their last 10 and in control of the Central Division, they will be coming off their bye week, and teams coming off their bye are 7-14-4 this season. Minnesota also faces Winnipeg on the road on Tuesday, so the #MinnesotaWildGoalieTweetOff may be a thing at the Xcel Energy Center tomorrow. Also of note: Zac Dalpe was recalled by the Wild today, and Minneapolis Star-Tribune scribe Michael Russo has the CBA-related details on his recall (and waiver exposure), and the decision to sign Ryan Carter to a prorated, one-year, two-way contract. (There’s also a mailbag for Wild-related comings and goings.)
-Since signing with the New York Rangers in the 2009 off-season, Marian Gaborik has represented the road team at the Xcel Energy Center five times. His lone goal on the road against the team with whom he played from 2000 to 2009 came as a Ranger late in the 2011-12 season, and with the Kings, he’s been kept off the scoreboard in his two appearances in Minnesota’s capital, the most recent of which was in March, 2015.
While it’s been seven seasons since he suited up in the shades of red, gold and green worn by the Wild, there’s still an enjoyable nostalgia returning to a familiar city and playing in front of fans that have supported him after he was selected third overall in 2000. “I spent a lot of great years there so it’s always fun to come back,” he said.
Hockey is meant to be fun, but Gaborik has had a rough go over portions of the schedule since his November 26 return from a broken bone in his foot. He was a healthy scratch for the second time this season in Saturday’s 4-1 Los Angeles win over Anaheim, and the veteran who has scored 392 goals in 971 career games has been held without a point over his last nine outings. In 38 games this season, Gaborik, who carries a $4.875-million cap hit through 2021, has six goals and 13 points.
“Hopefully I’ll get a chance [to get back into the lineup] and then obviously need to play better,” he said after taking part in Sunday’s practice. “That’s just the bottom line, so obviously it’s never pleasant to watch guys battle and then you’re not there. I did some work on my game a little bit today and then had a good skate, so hopefully I’ll get a chance and then just bottom line I have to play better. No secret to it, no magic to it, just have to play better.”
For a Kings team in need of skill and scoring, Gaborik’s own package is of clear value. It’s now about checking off the right boxes that allow him to step onto the ice and exhibit a set of skills that is in lockstep with what the team needs.
“Just go out there and then move my legs,” he said. “Skate and then just play a fast game and just do things I can do in terms of trying to play an all-around game and make sure I’m responsible defensively and then create offensively. Whether it’s creating room for my linemates or chances for my linemates or for myself. Just try do the little things that can lead to opportunities, offensive opportunities or like I said, be responsible defensively.”
-For those wondering, according to Cap Friendly the Kings will have $7,796,480 of available cap space on deadline day, which is March 1. I’ll have more on the team’s targets and the types of players they’re looking for on this road trip. Stay tuned, Insiders.