Another Kings defenseman, veteran Robyn Regehr, spent most of the early morning hours awake and unwell, dealing with a suspected case of food poisoning. Bad weather in the East prevented a logical recall from the minors for help on defense.
And so, the signs were not looking ideal for the finale of the Kings' five-game trip, on Monday in Columbus. But Regehr, legendary for his toughness, played on and even added an assist as the Kings were sparked by Jeff Carter's line, beating the Blue Jackets, 4-3, at Nationwide Arena.
Carter is the former Blue Jacket whom the fans here still love to hate, and boo. He had a goal (No. 15 of the season), one assist and his line combined for five points. Linemate and left wing Dwight King scored once and added an assist and right wing Tyler Toffoli scored once, his 15th goal of the season, and goalie Jonathan Quick was sharp late when the Blue Jackets made a big push.
“I thought the line was really good,” Kings Coach Darryl Sutter said. “Jeff and Tyler and Kinger were our best forwards by a long shot.”
Said Toffoli: “Carts always has that jump. But I thought Kinger had a really, really good game. He was moving the puck, moving his feet and getting the puck to the net and he got rewarded tonight.”
For the Kings, it was a modest step forward. It was the first time they've won back-to-back games since mid-December and they moved within three points of the last wild-card playoff spot.
Perhaps this will eventually be known as the flipping-the-switch trip, in which the Kings finally summoned their ability to turn it on these last two games.
The Kings were able to mount fast responses to the Blue Jackets. King scored only 32 seconds after Columbus had taken a 1-0 lead in the first period on the second shift of the game. Later, after Blue Jackets forward Scott Hartnell, who was playing in his 1,000th NHL game, made it 2-2 at 14:16 of the second period, Carter put the Kings back in front at 15:34 of the second.
Kings captain Dustin Brown provided the insurance goal, making it 4-2, early in the third. The Blue Jackets pulled within one at 18:07, with their goalie Curtis McElhinney off for an extra attacker. They failed to get the equalizer despite a series of faceoff wins down the stretch.
There were big minutes from the usual Kings suspects. Defenseman Drew Doughty played just over 30 minutes, and the ailing Regehr was next at 23 minutes 47 seconds. He was a minus-three and had the secondary assist on King's goal.
“I didn't spend too much time getting any rest last night,” Regehr said. “I was able to get a little bit of help from the trainers and things like that today and managed to go out there and keep everything very simple.
“Three in the morning and I just couldn't stop it … and it got worse and worse. I'm not feeling great, but it's nice we get the chance to go home and have a day off and rest. Hopefully everything gets better and subsides.”
It was typical of Regehr's iron will, a formidable ability to play through assorted ailments and issues.
The Kings still could make a recall from their minor league team in Manchester, N.H. Defenseman Derek Forbort will practice with the Monarchs on Wednesday and then they will decide what to do with him, according to Kings Assistant General Manager Rob Blake.