Though John Stevens didn’t confirm his availability, Jake Muzzin will be expected to make his return to the LA Kings lineup for tonight’s critical Game 3 against a Vegas Golden Knights team that has a two-to-nothing lead in the teams’ best-of-seven first round series.
Muzzin hasn’t played since suffering an upper-body injury during Los Angeles’ 3-0 win over Calgary on March 26. He etched out perhaps his finest individual season as a pro, posting eight goals and a career-high 42 points in 74 games and leading team regulars with a 52.9% Corsi-for percentage.
“I think he’s really close. I think he’s going to be a game-time decision,” Stevens said. “But we were just joking there – Muzz, he’s begging to stop getting a conditioned skate every day, so we we thought we’d get him in a regular rotation today. He’s working really hard. I think he’s close, so we’ll see. I haven’t talked to the trainer yet, but I’ll make sure to talk to him and see where he’s at, and then we’ll go from there.”
Muzzin skated to the left of Drew Doughty, who did not play in Game 2 due to an NHL-imposed suspension for an illegal check to the head of Golden Knights forward William Carrier in Game 1. Though Doughty had skated primarily with Derek Forbort (who remains out with a lower-body injury) in the second half of the season and Muzzin with Christian Folin, their reunion would reprise a partnership that provided excellent minutes during the Kings’ Stanley Cup run of 2014. Again, Stevens did not confirm Muzzin’s place in the lineup, but he did confirm that he has been cleared for contact, and Muzzin indicated he’d play Sunday night.
“Yeah it’s been a long time,” he said. “I’m excited. You know, it’s tough to watch, … but I’m excited to get back in and try and help the guys win.”
Muzzin, Doughty, Iafallo in
LaDue, Gravel, Amadio out
— Jon Rosen (@lakingsinsider) April 15, 2018
John Stevens, on the potential of having Drew Doughty and Jake Muzzin back for Game 3:
I thought we had some guys come in and really step up big. I think oscar’s come in and done a really good job. But with Drew in your lineup, you’ve got a guy that plays big minutes in all situations that can really control the pace of the game, and I think beyond Drew as a player, he’s one of the leaders on our hockey team. The amount that he’s grown as a leader on our team has far surpassed his improvement as a player, and I think that’s been huge for our team. I’ve said this many times; he’s the most competitive guy that I think I’ve ever seen. To add that back to your lineup for us is just good for the group.
Jake Muzzin, on being cleared to take contact:
There’s a series of tests you have to pass until you get to that point and we reached it, so we’re all good.
Muzzin, on what he saw of the series from watching upstairs:
Yeah there’s lots. When you sit down to watch, you tend to see the teams and players and stuff like that. So, you know, I’m not going to tell you guys, but I think we saw some areas we can improve on and we talked about them and we’re going to execute tonight.
Muzzin, on whether it feels like the full team is back:
Yeah, we’re still missing one, but you know it’s definitely—you know, the young guys went in and did and played really hard. It’s a tough environment to go into. You know, some guys haven’t played for a while so they’re thrown into a playoff game and a double OT. I mean it’s a tough situation, but they played their [tails] off. So, it was great to see, but we’re definitely excited to have Drew back and myself, so I think it should be a good push tonight.
-Lead photo: Aaron Poole/NHLI