Cloutier making steady progress

Times Staff Writer

Goaltender Dan Cloutier lumbered onto the ice for a second consecutive day, putting in another 30-minute workout Wednesday. Whether that would be considered a welcome sight to Kings fans can be left to an online debate.

But for Cloutier, the last two days have been a significant step forward in his rehabilitation from hip surgery.

“It feels real good,” Cloutier said. “I saw the doctor in Vail [Colo.] a couple weeks ago and he cleared me to skate. So I was skating without equipment the last couple weeks and it was time to try to get out there. It still feels a little tight and it is hard to go down on shots. But it’s a chance to work on seeing the puck again and I like that.”


Cloutier did not rule out playing before the season ended. He still must be cleared by doctors before resuming practice and he is expecting to go to Colorado for another examination at the end of March.

But Cloutier said he was not about to rush things.

“If I learned one thing this year, it’s if you’re hurt, get it taken care of right away,” said Cloutier, who underwent surgery Jan. 12. “If I get cleared, there would only be a week left in the season. It would definitely be nice to play, but I am not going to rush things.”

Cloutier was acquired in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks last summer and given a two-year, $6.2-million contract extension before playing a game with the Kings.

He was given the lion’s share of blame for the team’s woeful start, and much of it seemed merited, but whether his poor play was because of his hip injury is unclear.

One thing is clear: the Kings’ hopes for next season will depend on whether the goaltending situation is solidified.

Mathieu Garon is an unrestricted free agent. Sean Burke, claimed on waivers in January, is 40. Jason LaBarbera has had an exceptional season with Manchester, the Kings’ minor league franchise in New Hampshire, but has 29 NHL games on his resume.

And Cloutier’s contract makes it unlikely that General Manager Dean Lombardi will be able to present a big offer to a free-agent goaltender.

“I think it will help to see Dan play a game or two, but the important thing is him being ready for next season,” Lombardi said. “Playing would help him more than anything, going out there and having a little success.”


vs. Chicago, 7:30, FSN West

Site -- Staples Center.

Radio -- 1150.

Records -- Kings 23-34-13, Blackhawks 26-34-9.

Record vs. Blackhawks -- 0-1-1.

Update -- Kings rookie center Anze Kopitar (back injury) was examined by the team’s doctor Monday, but he was not cleared to resume skating. He will be examined again tonight. Derek Armstrong is unlikely to play in the next three games because of an injured left knee.

Tickets -- (888) 546-4752.