Motivated by the ongoing absence of right wing Tyler Toffoli and the importance of upcoming division games, Coach Darryl Sutter reunited a trio whose success was instrumental to the Kings’ 2014 Stanley Cup triumph.
Sutter put Marian Gaborik at left wing with Anze Kopitar at center and Dustin Brown on the right side for Tuesday’s practice, the team’s first after the Christmas break. Sutter didn’t say anything to them before each player found a white practice jersey in his stall, but they got the message.
“I don’t think there’s a whole lot of explanation needed in this case,” Kopitar said. “We all know why we got put together. Now it’s a matter of going out there and perform.”
Kopitar, though still responsible defensively, has been cursed offensively and has scored only three goals in 29 games. Brown has four in 32 games, and Gaborik — a healthy scratch at Boston on Dec. 18 — has one in 12 games. Sutter’s hope is that they can rekindle the chemistry they had in 2014 and compensate for the loss of Toffoli, who is second on the team with eight goals. Sutter said Toffoli, who has missed two games because of a lower-body injury, won’t be reevaluated for at least a week.
“We’ve got to do some ad-libbing again,” Sutter said, adding that his initial plan to play Gaborik, Kopitar and Brown together was derailed when Gaborik suffered a broken foot at the World Cup tournament.
It helps that this is a familiar situation for them. “It’s somewhat a sense of comfort just because we have played before and we’ve done pretty well together too. It’s nice,” Kopitar said. “We’re getting into a stretch where every game is critical. Not that it wasn’t before, but now it magnifies a little bit because of how tight it is in our division. Now we have four games in a row within our division, so it’s a big stretch for us.”
Brown welcomed the move. “We have had success in the past and probably not as much success in the last couple of years as we’d like,” he said. “But with Ty going out and things kind of change, I think it’s just important for us to be a real good line.”
Sutter reinforced that point on the ice Tuesday. “He talked to us out there a little bit about just being ready, especially the teams we’re playing and what kind of opportunities we’re going to get, being ready for those,” Brown said. “For me it’s an opportunity … like I’ve said, Kopi is one of the best players in the world, so it’s a big opportunity for me to play with a player like that.”
Not just play, but contribute as the Kings end a stretch of nine straight road games with games at Vancouver and Edmonton. They are 3-2-2 so far.
“They’re all three character guys that maybe have different personalities, but they’re all caring guys that have played together,” Sutter said. “My best memories of that line are in big games. If you look at it, those three guys were pivotal. … In the last Cup run, I think in the Anaheim series maybe, it was a big line for us.”
When: Wednesday, 7 p.m.
Where: Rogers Arena, Vancouver, Canada.
On the air: TV: FSWest. Radio: 790.
Update: Kings defenseman Brayden McNabb (broken collarbone) was medically cleared and is available but unlikely to play. “I still think he needs some practice,” Sutter said. This will be the teams’ second of four meetings this season. The Kings won, 4-3, in a shootout at home Oct. 22. The Canucks have lost two straight games and seven of their last 10, and have given up 34 goals in those 10 games. Ryan Miller is expected to start in goal. Forward Jannik Hansen will be out four to six weeks because of a knee injury.