The Kings, who are two days removed from a two-goal win over the New Jersey Devils, had more reason for optimism Thursday morning.
Nic Dowd, who missed the last two games with a lower-body injury, participated in a morning skate at the Carolina Hurricanes’ PNC Arena. Forward Tyler Toffoli, who has been out since Dec. 20 with a lower-body injury, also skated and upped his workload. The Kings and Hurricanes (21-19-7) face off at 4 p.m. PST for the last game each team will play before the All-Star break.
“Good to get [Dowd] back on the ice,” Kings Coach Darryl Sutter said Thursday. “We were hoping to skate him yesterday and he wasn’t quite ready, but today he was ready to skate with the group, so he’s basically a game-time decision.
“And [Toffoli], we’ve got to get him into some full practices. With Dowd, he only missed two or three days. If he’s ready, he’s ready. If he’s not, then it’s a coach’s decision then.”
Dowd stayed on the ice for extra work, which means he will likely be scratched against the Hurricanes. He was joined by defenseman Tom Gilbert, goaltender Jeff Zatkoff and Toffoli.
Toffoli has participated in parts of morning skates throughout the Kings’ four-game road trip, and was most active on Thursday. He took part in a few drills — some shooting, some five-on-five and some two-on-one — but neither he nor Dowd were part of any line rushes.
Sutter has tinkered with his lines since Dowd was injured in a loss to the New York Islanders on Saturday. On Thursday morning, the lines were Marian Gaborik-Anze Kopitar-Dustin Brown, Tanner Pearson-Jeff Carter-Kyle Clifford, Andy Andreoff-Trevor Lewis-Devin Setoguchi, and Dwight King-Nick Shore-Jordan Nolan. Sutter was highly complimentary of Clifford after the Kings’ win over the Devils, saying, “Cliffy has done a really good job for us.”
The defense pairs at morning skate were Jake Muzzin with Drew Doughty, Alec Martinez with Derek Forbort, and Kevin Gravel with Brayden McNabb. Defenseman Matt Greene, who was been dealing with lingering injuries in his back and groin, did not skate.
The Kings (23-21-4) snapped a four-game losing streak with three first-period goals against the Devils in Newark, and are fixed on getting off to another hot start in Raleigh.
“We were getting in the habit of letting teams score first on us and that just makes it harder to win games, obviously,” forward Tanner Pearson said Thursday. “So the faster we can start, we know that gives us a really good chance to win games, and we need points right now.”