Kings fans can stand down on Drew Doughty.
The franchise cornerstone defenseman said he was ready to play Thursday morning following an upper-body injury scare from the previous game. Doughty participated in the morning skate, partnered with Oscar Fantenberg, before the Kings play the Columbus Blue Jackets. Two nights earlier, Doughty was struck in the hand on a shot from Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin and left the game.
“I wanted to come back,” Doughty said. “The trainer kept strategically delaying the comeback because he knew it was going to get more inflamed. As time went on, back in the room, as I stalled, the worse it got and I knew I couldn’t come back. But we knew right away after doing all the medical stuff, we knew I was probably going to be able to play today.”
Doughty’s return gives the Kings seven available defensemen, but Dion Phaneuf remains in Los Angeles with an upper-body injury, interim coach Willie Desjardins said.
“I’m sure he’s pretty sore here,” Desjardins said. “He’ll be [out] a little bit of time.”
It killed Doughty to watch Tuesday’s finish, when the Kings got down to four and then three defensemen. But he admired Jake Muzzin’s 30-plus-minute game.
“‘Muzz gets under-looked a lot in this organization, and he deserves a lot more credit than he gets,” Doughty said.
Daniel Brickley skated as the extra defenseman after his call-up from the minors. Brickley watched the Kings-Buffalo game and heard from the television announcers that Doughty and Phaneuf were out.
“After the game I was playing ‘Fortnite’ with a few of the guys,” Brickley said. “That’s when I got the call. I started packing.”
Brickley admitted it’s been a challenge adjusting to the professional game. He was a sought-after free agent college defenseman and is learning it’s a different game, even in the minors.
“[It’s] probably the strength of guys,” Brickley said. “I’m playing against men here, anywhere from 18 to 30-something, guys who have been in the league and they know how to play smart. It’s not the same as college. Guys will run around and try to kill you.”
Brickley was a minus-17 in 21 games with Ontario, partnered mostly with Matt Roy.
“It always can be better,” he said. “I’m still trying work on the defensive positioning and being more [of a] shutdown [defender], but it’s coming along.”
Austin Wagner played his fifth game in six nights Tuesday and said it was a matter of using his energy at the right times, such as knowing when to skate wide on an opposing player and went to go straight, or dumping the puck instead of chasing it. But mostly his legs held up.
“I think I’ve figured out how to manage it,” Wagner said. “A lot of it is mentally getting through it.”
Wagner played Dec. 6 for the Kings, then Friday and Saturday for the Reign and went from Tucson through Salt Lake City and rejoined the Kings in Detroit.