Obviously, it’s a little too early — after all, it is training camp — for Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi to break out the Josey Wales clips for one of his favorites, Jeff Carter.
Son of Josey?
Then again, Lombardi may not have to do so the way he did with his beloved Clint Eastwood western movie in 2012 to motivate Carter during the playoffs. On Sunday, Carter’s gift for goal-scoring was on full display, the precise sense of timing resulting in a hat trick in the Kings’ 4-2 preseason win over the Ducks at Honda Center.
Carter and the kids, linemates Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli, combined for seven points in Anaheim. Toffoli had two assists, as did Pearson. The other Kings goal came from defenseman Robyn Regehr, and goaltender Martin Jones was especially sharp, making 33 saves.
The shift back to center last season pleased Carter and he continues to enjoy playing on a line with the speedy, gifted youngsters.
“It gives me a little more freedom to get moving,” he said. “It’s fun. Obviously, I’ll play wherever they tell me to, but I enjoy playing center again.”
So has the enthusiasm of the kids rubbed off on him, or has Carter’s experience influenced Pearson and Toffoli?
“Hopefully, a little bit of both,” he said. “They make it exciting to play with them. They play with a lot of speed, a lot of skill, and for me it’s fun. They get the puck and you know you’re going north.”
Jones went the distance again, just as he did Thursday at Staples Center against the Ducks. Kings Coach Darryl Sutter explained the rationale behind the change in plans.
“We’ll get him as much [time] as we can because he has to get used to playing full games,” Sutter said. “That’s why we went away from splitting goalies [in games]. ... Jones has got to show that he can do this early in the year, so it’s good for him.
“Originally, we weren’t going to give him full games and then I said three or four days ago, ‘No, he’s got to play full games.’ He’s got to get accustomed to that.’
One strength is that Jones gets better as the game goes along.
“Absolutely, both games — third period’s been his best, for sure,” Sutter said.
No. 1 goalie Jonathan Quick, who had wrist surgery in the off-season, is expected to play later this week. Sutter has not determined an exact date and said it will be a group decision. Earlier, he also indicated defenseman Drew Doughty and center Jarret Stoll were ready to return.
Forward Marian Gaborik is dealing with an undisclosed injury, though he did skate Sunday morning. Sutter drew laughter from the assembled reporters when he was asked about the injury ... upper body, lower body, middle body?
Sutter paused and said, “Body.”