The LA Kings have recalled forward Jonny Brodzinski from his rehabilitation assignment with AHL-Ontario, a team official confirmed this morning.
Brodzinski, 25, recorded one goal in three games with the Reign, marking his first professional games after suffering a preseason shoulder injury that required surgery. He took nine shots during his three games, four of which were recorded in a 4-3 win over Stockton last night at Citizens Business Bank Arena.
“Actually, I thought he skated really well tonight,” Ontario Reign coach Mike Stothers said after the win. “I thought he was real good in the first, I thought he was not very good in the second and I thought he was real good in the third again. Maybe that is part of the timing thing, but the consistency of being able to put it together for 60 minutes, I don’t know, I mean he was off for an extremely long time. You can see, when Brods is skating and playing the way he can, he’s a pretty dominant player at this level, he’s a threat. Now, he’s got to try to find that groove up top.”
For Brodzinski to play tonight in Nashville, it would probably mean that another forward who’d been projected to play would not be able to. That’s not as likely as shifting players around that are already with the club. “I think we’re good,” Willie Desjardins said. “Lewis can play either center or wing, Amadio can come in and play center. We can just put Lewie on the wing.”
In that scenario, Brodzinski’s return could come Sunday in Florida. Make no mistake – the Kings will want to see Brodzinski get into games, and his modus operandi will be to score. Because Brodzinski is 25, on the final year of his contract and has accrued at least three professional seasons while appearing in fewer than 80 NHL games, he will become a Group VI UFA this season, meaning the Kings aren’t able to retain his rights as a restricted free agent. That doesn’t close the book on a return with Los Angeles next season, but rather that he’ll be able to choose where he wants to play and would do his NHL career a tremendous favor by producing over the remaining 23 games.
“It’s definitely more of a mental battle than a physical battle,” Brodzinski said of his rehabilitation to Reign Insider Zach Dooley last week. “Being a professional, it’s kind of what you do, you condition all summer and then I unfortunately got hurt right there so it’s basically like I had two summers. Just going out every day you have to just focus on day-to-day and try to get the most out of everything.”
In 41 career NHL games, the former St. Cloud State Husky has four goals, eight points and 70 shots on goal. He had brought his weight down over the summer and entered training camp “stronger, quicker, more powerful and lighter weight than he was before” prior to the injury, according to John Stevens during the preseason.
There are also changes coming on defense, with Sean Walker possibly rejoining the lineup after missing Monday’s game against Washington after taking a puck to the face against Boston on Saturday that required several layers of stitches around and within his mouth. After practicing with a face shield on Monday, Walker was without one at Wednesday’s practice and Thursday’s morning skate.
Los Angeles held a morning skate at Bridgestone Arena Thursday in which the four defensemen on the ice were Oscar Fantenberg, Paul LaDue, Matt Roy and Walker. Dion Phaneuf didn’t skate and LaDue remained on the ice for extra work, so there’s the possibility that Walker could enter for LaDue. The Phaneuf-Walker-LaDue “rotation” may be recalibrated with Roy also in the equation.
“We’ll probably readjust it here with Marty being out,” Desjardins said. “We might look at a bit of a different [group].”
Los Angeles, 0-3-2 in their last five games, faces a Nashville squad that’s 2-3-1 in their last six but enters tonight in second place in the Central Division, one point behind Winnipeg, who has two games in hand. Hard-charging St. Louis, winners of 11 straight, is all of a sudden six points behind the Predators with three games in hand.
“I think it’s just about the things that we do, the way that we play the game,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. “Those are the things that matter most. We’re always in a game or have a chance of winning a game if we do the right things, so we focus mostly on that. I don’t think that teams’ rank in the standings matters to the outcome of the game. The team that goes out there and plays the best is going to win.”
–Lead photo via Juan Ocampo/NHLI