At least one byproduct of defenseman Jake Muzzin’s injury is that it has forced the Kings to speed the development of Brayden McNabb.
Muzzin sat out the season opener against the San Jose Sharks because of an undisclosed upper-body issue and said Thursday after practice that he could miss a couple more games, calling it a fluke injury.
Forward Trevor Lewis, who was injured in the 4-0 loss to the Sharks, is day to day because of a mid-to-upper-body injury, according to Kings Assistant General Manager Rob Blake.
The Kings have back-to-back games this weekend, at Phoenix on Saturday and against Winnipeg at Staples Center on Sunday. If Muzzin sits out those games, the next contest is Tuesday at home against Edmonton.
“Right now, we’re in this position where [McNabb] has got to play,” said Kings Coach Darryl Sutter. “Quite honest, that’s good for our team. If he can continue the steps going forward, keep improving and then, touch wood, when we get everybody back, maybe he stays in the lineup.”
Once the coaching staff realized Muzzin could miss a few games, they made the decision to accelerate McNabb’s on-ice education. The youngster has been paired with Drew Doughty.
“We’re going to put him in every situation Muzz would have been in,” Sutter said.
Said McNabb: “I thought the first half of the game went pretty well. A little bit of an adjustment the second half.”
Muzzin and Doughty praised McNabb’s development from the beginning of camp to the season opener. “It’ll be fun to watch him grow,” Muzzin said.
Doughty said he expected to play a few games with McNabb until Muzzin returned to the lineup.
“I thought he played pretty well,” Doughty said. “We obviously got to get used to each other a little more. Besides the one goal against we were on for — which was kind of both our faults, letting that [Tommy Wingels] breakaway go by — besides that, we played really well together.”
Doughty has embraced his inner mentor in regard to McNabb, saying he has a huge upside: “I’m going to try to take him under my wing and do everything I can to help him, get him into the lineup permanently.”
It was suggested that Doughty was the new Willie Mitchell.
“I don’t know about Willie Mitchell, but maybe Robyn Regehr,” Doughty said, drawing an amused look from the very serious Regehr.
There was a sense of increased urgency in practice after Wednesday night’s clunker against the Sharks following the banner-raising ceremony. Sutter tweaked lines, putting Justin Williams with center Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik, center Jarret Stoll with Dwight King and Dustin Brown, and center Mike Richards with Kyle Clifford and Jordan Nolan.
“Last night, I don’t know if we spent it all in the ceremony,” Sutter said. “Quite honest, it was one of the few times that I haven’t gotten the right read on the team.
“Maybe the only time. I can always tell if they’re a little off or something. And even during the game, there were times where we could create it and make it, but then it was like a penalty or a mistake or something and then it would ebb again.”
Doughty said he thought it “actually got worse” as the game went on.
“We were doing things we don’t usually do,” he said. “We looked like a slow team. We’re usually a fast team.”