It feels like there are so many Kings players on their way back from injuries, that an entire Todd McLellan press conference could be held asking about each and every one in detail.
Alas, more was said today by the bench boss for the Kings, but nonetheless no less than five Kings players continue to work their way back from injuries. Alec Martinez and Trevor Lewis skated for the second consecutive practice in regularly colored jerseys, Dustin Brown skated today in a non-contact red jersey, while defenseman Joakim Ryan remained off the ice. Additionally, defenseman Derek Forbort continues his recovery process in the AHL with the Ontario Reign for now, with the team flying to Stockton this afternoon for a pair of games this weekend against the Heat.
Without the players listed above, the Kings currently sit at just 18 healthy skaters, with that group of 18 playing in each of the last two games (12/28 @ VAN, 12/31 vs. PHI). Here’s where those currently injured, or returning from injury, are at as of today –
Martinez and Lewis are obviously considered the closest, given that both have now taken two full practices in full capacity.
“Marty’s quite close,” McLellan said after today’s practice. “I think, physically, he is, as far as the injury goes I think he’s above and beyond that now. Now, it’s timing, conditioning, getting a sense of comfort on the ice again and these practices are certainly helping.”
Read a bit more on Martinez’s injury, and his rehab process, here. The 32-year-old defenseman suffered a laceration to his right wrist on November 25 and has not appeared in a game since.
Lewis feels like he is close to getting back in the lineup as well, after he suffered an upper-body injury against Buffalo on December 21. Lewis was placed on injured reserve, retroactive to that date, and hasn’t played since.
— Here's Your Replay ⬇️ (@HeresYourReplay) December 21, 2019
“I was just kind of reaching for a puck and got hit in a weird way,” Lewis said, describing the incident in Buffalo. “It was just an unfortunate bounce, but it’s nice to be back out there for sure.”
Lewis said he feels like he is “really close” and discussed how getting in a couple of practices this week helps as he returns to action. At this stage, it’s not necessarily as much about recovering from the injury, as it is getting back into game shape and readiness after a couple of weeks away.
“It depends how long you’re out, but it doesn’t help that it [was] Christmas time and there were days off and then a back-to-back, so you’re not practicing at all,” Lewis said. “It’s just kind of nice to have these couple of days to get back in there, get the timing back and get back like that.”
The Kings could activate either Martinez or Lewis without a corresponding roster move, but activating both would require a move. LAK currently sits at 22 players on the active roster, with Brown and Ryan both still on the roster, though out of the lineup.
Regarding Brown, he returned to the ice today for the first time since the Kings lost 4-1 against St. Louis on December 23. Brown hadn’t missed a game up until that point, but was labeled as a “game-time decision” after he missed morning skate against Columbus on December 19, before playing that night, practicing the following day in Buffalo and playing in each of the next two games.
“He’s going to see a doctor again tomorrow, which one, him being on the ice and two, him seeing the doctor tomorrow is a real positive sign, we don’t think there will be anything negative in it,” McLellan said. “I expect to see him in a gray or a white jersey for practice tomorrow, where he can do everything. It’s been 10 days since he’s practiced or really skated, so he’s got to get the energy going again. Game date, it’s too early to tell. It won’t be Saturday, but it’ll be hopefully soon after.”
Read more on Brown, per Lisa Dillman of The Athletic, here.
On Ryan and Forbort, the timetable is less clear. McLellan initially labeled Ryan as “day-to-day”, but added that since he didn’t skate today, and hasn’t skated since December 27, he may be more “week-to-week” at this stage.
Ryan has missed each of the last two games for the Kings, and was labeled as a little “dinged up” prior to the game on December 28 versus Vancouver.
Forbort remains on a conditioning loan in the AHL with the Ontario Reign. The 27-year-old defenseman has played in each of the past two games with Ontario and scored the game-winning goal for the Reign on New Year’s Eve against Bakersfield.
Forbort? More like Fourtothreebert! pic.twitter.com/WUImviW9LL
— Ontario Reign (@ontarioreign) January 1, 2020
“He’s going to play a few more, certainly one more for sure, and then there will be a point where he has to come back up and integrate himself with our team,” McLellan said of Forbort.
This is Forbort’s second conditioning stint of the season – The defenseman also played two games with Ontario in late-November, but suffered a “setback”, which kept him out of the Reign lineup until Saturday in San Diego. Since Forbort was on LTIR, he is eligible to play three games in six days, which would end on Friday in Stockton. From there, the Kings can request the NHL to extend the loan by two additional games with the Reign. Ontario is in action for a back-to-back this weekend in Stockton, playing on Friday and Saturday against the Heat, followed by a trip to San Jose this coming Wednesday.
Though it’s been a by committee approach, considering all of the shuffling and different positions, McLellan has been pleased with those who have filled in, and taken on larger roles in the absence of the aforementioned players.
“We’ve seen different individuals step up,” McLellan said. “You look at the lineup, Joakie found a common partner with Drew and performed well until he got hurt. Walker’s been able to jump from side-to-side, from pair-to-pair and he’s played pretty well. Royzie’s ‘Steady Eddie’, Mac has been in the lineup a lot more consistently and his game has improved. We got to see Clague, which was a great thing. I’m not talking about Drew or Hutts or a couple of the other guys, but they’ve all performed pretty well. The fact that we’re able to overcome some injuries to Forbort, Ryan, Martinez, those are some key, veteran-type defensemen we’ll be playing without and we certainly miss them, but we were able to play without them.”
The Kings are back on the ice for practice tomorrow at Toyota Sports Performance Center, in advance of Saturday’s home game against Nashville.