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Hockey

Jonny Brodzinski aims to make most of his Kings audition after injury comeback

Los Angeles Kings left wing Jonny Brodzinski (76) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Mond
Kings left wing Jonny Brodzinski shoots during the first period of Monday’s loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
(Chris O’Meara / Associated Press)

Jonny Brodzinski was expecting the prognosis for his recovery to be weeks, maybe more, at best. But when he was told in September that the time frame would be four to six months, Brodzinski needed a moment to digest it.

“It was pretty hard to grasp onto that, but once I did, it was like, ‘OK, now I just have to do everything I can to get to where I’m at right now and just try to make the most out of the season,’” Brodzinski said.

Brodzinski took those first steps on the Kings’ recent trip, in his first NHL games since last April, and he’s among a handful of Kings prospects trying to use the final 19 games as an audition for next season.

His season was practically over before it started when he suffered a major shoulder injury in a preseason game on a hit from Michael Del Zotto. The rehabilitation process left him off the ice for nearly three months, the longest idle period of his career.

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“It was a pretty long time, especially after working so hard this whole summer, and then, basically, you have another summer,” Brodzinski said.

Brodzinski finally felt right about a month ago, when his shot was back up to par. After a short conditioning assignment in the minors, he scored in his season debut Monday against the Tampa Bay Lightning to stir a Kings’ comeback.

“The legs felt great,” Brodzinski said. “I supposed that’s what happens when you’re out for five-and-a-half months.”

Brodzinski has added incentive in his small window of a season because he’s on an expiring contract. He showed promise last season as a natural right wing, and coach Willie Desjardins, who didn’t have Brodzinski until recently, likes the first impression.

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“When he was trying to get back, I think he got quicker, because when I watched him out there, I thought, ‘This guy can help us. This guy’s fast and he’s got a great shot,’” Desjardins said. “So I don’t know where he was before I got there, but I thought he could maybe come back right in and help.”

Goalie plan vague

Desjardins has started Jonathan Quick in 10 of the last 14 games, and one of those non-starts was when Quick was ill. If it’s time to give Quick a break, particularly after Tuesday’s awkward confrontation at the bench, Desjardins has been vague.

“We’ll look at the different options,” Desjardins said. “He deserves a lot. He’s put up so much for this team. We got to be better in front of him. We’re just not good enough in front of him right now.”

The Kings were outscored, 18-6, on their four-game trip. Those 18 goals are more representative of the fragile defense in front of Quick and Jack Campbell, and the Kings have owned up to it.

“We’ve been leaving our goalies out on a lot of grade-A chances,” Dion Phaneuf said. “As a group, we expect more. We definitely know where we’re at. No one’s happy about where we’re at or where the season has gone. But we’ve got to find a way to pick ourselves up and to start playing better hockey, because right now we haven’t played even close to the way that our group expects.”

Up next for Kings: vs. Dallas on Thursday

When: Thursday, 7:30 p.m.

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On the air: TV: FSW; Radio: iHeartRadio (LA Kings Audio Network)

Update: Dallas is square in the playoff hunt, but it lost trade-deadline pickup Mats Zuccarello to a broken arm in his Stars debut. Andrew Cogliano is reportedly day-to-day with an upper-body injury. The Kings have recalled defenseman Kurtis MacDermid.

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curtis.zupke@latimes.com

Twitter: @curtiszupke


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