Center Anze Kopitar will play in at least one of the two remaining preseason games for the Kings.
Coach Darryl Sutter wasn’t sure if Kopitar would play Friday against the Dallas Stars or Saturday against the Colorado Avalanche. But he was certain of one thing about the trip to Las Vegas.
“He’s going to have to play a game,” Sutter said after Thursday’s practice in El Segundo. “He’s been off.”
The Kopitar family expanded by one on Wednesday — son Jakob was born in the early morning hours — and Kopitar was back on the ice with his teammates Thursday. His last game, with Team Europe, was last Thursday against Canada in the World Cup of Hockey.
Kings defenseman Drew Doughty, who was on Canada’s team, joked about playing against Kopitar last week.
“We got in a scrum at the end of one period and we grabbed each other,” Doughty said on Wednesday. “We weren’t really chirping. He just said, ‘Let’s do this.’ He was joking around. I told the ref to let me at him.”
Going forward, the issue for the Kings isn’t as much about Kopitar’s sharpness. It’s more about finding the right linemates for him and helping them adjust to playing with Kopitar.
Winger Marian Gaborik (injured right foot) would have been an obvious candidate. But Gaborik is out for several weeks after sustaining his injury during the World Cup, and the Kings put him on injured reserve on Thursday.