Surgery for Carter; Laich signs. What now?

Via the Kings:

Carter absorbed a Jeff Petry hit along the boards late in the first period when their legs became tangled and Petry’s skate cut through his sock. Though there is no timetable on any return, there is nothing to suggest that this will be any sort of short-term injury.

At practice on Thursday at Toyota Sports Center, Nick Shore centered Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli, and Brooks Laich, who will sign a contract with the club (UPDATE: he signed), centered Andy Andreoff and Justin Auger. (Derek Forbort also signed a contract extension, a topic that will be covered separately on a busy day.)

“Well, it’s a big challenge,” John Stevens said. “You’ve got a veteran guy that’s one of the captains of your team and plays in all situations. He’s one of the most dominant centermen in the lea=gue. He’s a huge part of our team, but it’s the next man up now. We’re going to have guys that have increased responsibilities, we’re going to have guys that are obviously going to play with different people, and I think we’ve seen before when guys get opportunities, sometimes guys are excited to take advantage of those opportunities. I think we saw that last night. Guys had a chance to play a little more, it forced guys to play with different people, and a lot of times you’re pleasantly surprised at what you see from that. We’ve got some young players here who want to play more, and we’ve got some guys who are capable of taking on a little more opportunity, so they’re going to get that opportunity.”

It was a consummately classy gesture by Rob Blake, Stevens and the Kings to arrange for Laich to continue practicing with the team even after the expiration of his PTO and is an indication of the way the organization treats its players, especially those such as Laich with 764 regular season games of NHL tenure.

(Independently, he question can also be raised of what the plan is for Nic Dowd, a center capable of playing wing who was an extra at during Thursday’s skate, suiting up in a temporary arrangement as a defenseman out of apparent practice necessity — more on that at another time.)

But Laich was willing to forge ahead on his own in an attempt to return to the NHL, and his path to the Kings – he last played in the NHL with Washington and Toronto in 2015-16 and had an AHL season with the Toronto Marlies cut short due to injuries a year ago – is a noteworthy example of perseverance and playing for the love of the game. He signed a two-way contract worth $650,000 at the NHL level, as noted by Bob McKenzie of TSN earlier today.
“Last year I had a great conversation with an ex-teammate and great friend of mine, Jeff Halpern, and he said he wished when he went through that situation he would’ve stuck it out until Christmas,” Laich said. “I think he hung it up at the end of October, maybe early November, so in my mind I was at least prepared – and this is going back to the summer – at least prepared to go through Christmas, probably even to the end of January until I might’ve started looking at a different way of life. But I was even prepared to do it on my own, to rent ice every day and to skate on my own. I was fortunate that they allowed me to come back here and keep in shape with NHL caliber guys and also to get to know the team more. I’m glad I didn’t have to go solo to the rink for four months to try and earn a position, but that’s why I’m very grateful to be here today. And that’s why I kept coming back. A lot of people have asked me, ‘Why do you keep coming back?” I was mentally prepared to go to the rink by myself and continue working out until December or January 30th, so to keep coming back here the last couple weeks has been very easy.”

John Stevens, on whether Jeff Carter’s injury looked “flukish”:
It did. It didn’t even look like the skate hit his leg. It was kind of hard – it was just a harmless play. I was hoping at the time that it was like a shot blocker or something that came loose, but obviously that wasn’t the case. It’s a fast game with steel blades on your feet, so things can happen in a hurry. It looked like a harmless play, but unfortunately it wasn’t.

Stevens, on Laich’s perseverance and character:
I think it’s been a real win-win situation for everybody. Just having him here and a veteran guy that keeps himself in great shape, he’s got a great detail at what he does, a real positive attitude. We thought he played terrific in the Vegas game that he played in and still looked like he had a lot to offer. At the time there wasn’t anything that either party could do to give him a contract at that point, but he was willing to continue to practice and stay ready in case something came along. We’ve liked him all along. Now, hopefully we’ll get him as an option, especially with Carts’ situation. I think it’ll be extremely helpful to have him around. [Reporter: How was the decision made to allow him to continue practicing with the team – between you, or Rob, or Luc, or however that gets decided?] Well, we just confronted him with it: was he willing to do it? He’s not getting paid, he’s just basically practicing on his own. He lives here, he loves the area, he loved what was going on here, he wanted to stick around a little longer and see if he could be a little part of it. We’ve really enjoyed having him around because he’s still a good player, and he enjoyed being around because he got sharper and sharper as a player so it was just by mutual agreement. [Reporter: Did you know much about him before he surfaced? He told us he was willing to rent ice himself and skate on his own if it hadn’t worked out.] I coached in Philadelphia and he was in Washington back then. He was a top-nine forward that was a 20-goal scorer, and we played that team in the practice one year and it went seven games. I was very familiar with Brooks when he was on top of his game and what he was capable of. He was always a concern when you’re game planning. Just a real well-rounded 200-foot player, a kid that played hard and did a lot of little things well. I was familiar with that part of his game. Just looked at his history, and since the lockout he had some injuries and hadn’t really gotten back to the same level, and I actually just sat down before camp and just talked to him about that just to get a feel from where he was at. He said he had a real deep desire to play, he had passion for the game and he came in really fit. He’s had a good camp and he’s been a good player up to this point. Hopefully he can get back to that level. [Reporter: I imagine a lot of his value, too, is his leadership? Just having someone like that in the room?] I think you’re always going to have your captains and your leaders of the team, but it’s those underlying guys that can help carry the message. He gets along with everybody. He’s very comfortable with the older players, he’s got a great relationship with the younger players, he works with them at the end of practice and faceoffs. He enjoys the game. He’s upstairs all the time doing extra work, so he’s a really good pro, and I don’t think you can have enough of those.

Brooks Laich, on an opportunity with the challenge presented by Jeff Carter’s absence:
As a player, you never want anybody to get hurt. But that does happen in the game. It’s a tough bounce for Jeff, but myself, that’s why I was able to be patient. That’s why I stuck around, came to practice. Anything is possible in the game of hockey, and Jeff gets hurt, and today was an opportunity for me, so I’m very thankful for the organization. Grateful that they allowed me to stick around and practice, and sometimes you get a little bit of luck and you get an opportunity. Now I’m here to make the most of it.

Laich, on why he decided on coming to camp with Los Angeles:
My wife and I live here in Los Angeles, and I’ve gotten to know these guys over the last three summers. I’ve skated with the majority of them, so I’ve gotten to know them, and obviously as an athlete, and a now-husband, I knew I was coming to unrestricted free agency this year. Two years ago I moved to Los Angeles, had this in mind, and had slowly been working towards it. Got to know the guys, got familiar. I skate here all summer, and then being married this summer, I really didn’t want to spend my first year of marriage with my wife doing long-distance. And the other thing is we have a real legitimate chance to win here. It’s just something at this stage of my career that really excited me. Great foundational pieces, great depth, they’ve had success here before and now it’s a new culture, a new year, a lot of great, positive things that I’ve seen so far which really kept me coming back to the rink.

Laich, on whether he’s ready to jump right back into game action:
Yeah. [Reporter: Is that just the work you put in?] Yep. Preparation, yeah. I’ve skated five days a week since April, basically. In April, I pretty much knew I’d be going on a PTO, just based on the year I had last year and the situation. Very prepared. I’m a pretty proud guy with my conditioning off the ice and staying mentally sharp. Even watching the games, you watch a centerman, watch what they’re doing, put yourself in their situations, try and make the same reads that they would make just to stay sharp. Being a professional, I put a lot of pride in my preparation and that’s why I don’t think I’ll need a lot of time to get up to speed.

Laich, on whether he prepared any differently this summer:
You’re always looking for ways to improve. To be honest, last year in Toronto, I spent a lot of time working with skills coaches. Just logged hours and hours on the ice with skills coaches looking at my game and trying to identify areas of my game where maybe specific skills had fallen out and where I can readdress or reimplement those skills. And, every year, as a student of the game, you try and learn more, try and pick up new ways to identify plays quicker, to create space for yourself, to protect the puck. Where’s the game trending? Where are your default shots on the ice? A lot of things. I could honestly sit here and talk for an hour about what I’ve learned over the summer. Skated a lot more, I think is the number one. I skated a lot more – probably five times a week since April. I feel very comfortable on the ice.

Laich, on a positive personal result after uncertainty:
I’m forever in debt to the L.A. Kings. I’m just grateful for the opportunity. You get to this stage of my career, the game means so much more and you’re more grateful for every day, but there’s still so much in me that I want to give and so much I want to do in this sport. I still feel like it’s my first day in the NHL. I feel young – coming to the rink with so much energy, the body feels great. There’s just so much left that I want to accomplish. I’m definitely not finished yet.

Nick Shore, on opportunities raised in the challenges presented by Jeff Carter’s absence:
You never want to see a teammate go down, especially someone like Jeff who does a lot for this team. It’s going to be an onus on everyone to carry the weight.

Shore, on how his game transfers when playing with Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson:
I’ve been around them enough to know their game. It helps to know where guys are, certain spots they like to be. But for myself, you don’t really want to try to play any differently. You want to stick to your game and plug away.

Shore, on skating with a number of players:
You’re never going to be with someone for 82 games. That’s just not how it works. Even if things are going great, you’re still not going to stick it out with somebody. There are a lot of guys in this room, and I don’t think anyone really cares who they play with.

Shore, on not changing aspects of his game:
It sucks for all of us. You don’t want to see Jeff go down like that. He carries a lot of minutes, plays in all situations, so I don’t think the onus is one guy to try to fill his spot. I think it’s from everybody. More ample opportunity, I think, for certain guys, which is good, but I think you try to stick to your game.

-Lead photo via Adam Pantozzi/NHLI

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