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Hockey

Kings use emergency-roster exemption before facing Penguins

Anze Kopitar
Kings center Anze Kopitar warms up before a game against the St. Louis Blues on Oct. 16.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Hockey limbo could have been the best description for the Kings’ situation the last few days.

Because the Kings played short-handed in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Flyers, they were able to use an emergency-roster exemption. They will recall winger David Van der Gulik from their minor league affiliate in Manchester, N.H., according to Kings assistant general manager Rob Blake.

Van der Gulik, 31, was signed by the Kings as a free agent in July. He has 48 games of NHL experience, mostly with the Colorado Avalanche organization. His first NHL stop was with the Calgary Flames. He is scheduled to join the Kings in Pittsburgh on Thursday morning.

This move came after days of trying to get minor league forward Jordan Weal on the roster. Weal has been poised to join the salary cap-challenged Kings and it appeared as though they would be able to fit him under the cap. But potential bonuses apparently put him over the limit even though they were thought to be unattainable (related to games played).

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The website capgeek.com has Van der Gulik’s cap hit at $550,000 with no bonuses listed.

The salary-cap situation has been complicated by the indefinite league-imposed suspension of defenseman Slava Voynov after his arrest on suspicion of domestic violence. His salary counts against the cap total during the suspension.

The Kings tried to forge a solution in talks with the league this week and General Manager Dean Lombardi had said Wednesday afternoon they were waiting on word from the NHL Players’ Assn. Any league move on the roster/cap relief side must be done in conjunction with the NHLPA.

Once Weal wasn’t an option, they moved to find a more cap-friendly contract elsewhere on the Manchester roster.

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The behind-the-scenes maneuvering would not be necessary if it was certain that either center Anze Kopitar or forward Trevor Lewis — both out with upper-body injuries — were ready to return.

They are improving and practiced Wednesday but Lewis and Kopitar were both preaching caution. Kings Coach Darryl Sutter said that Marian Gaborik (upper-body injury) was not as far along as Lewis and Kopitar.

“It’s not worth going out there if you’re not ready, hurt yourself and be out for another three weeks,” said Lewis. “It’s just a thing where you’ve got to make sure you’re ready and all the way healthy, so you don’t reaggravate it.”

Kopitar, injured on Sunday against Columbus, said nearly the same thing.

“I don’t want to push it,” he said. “If I take the rest now and really get ready for it and get it back ... I don’t want to play the next two games and then after two games then figure out I have to take the time off, regardless.”

It was tough knowing their teammates would be short-handed against the Flyers.

“It’s the worst,” Lewis said. “You just want to be out there with the guys. Last night we didn’t even have enough forwards. You want to be out there and you want to help your teammates.”

Sutter is adept at handling his bench but this is testing him.

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“We’re not the same team we were,” Sutter said. "[Drew] Doughty missed a lot of camp. [Jake] Muzzin missed a lot of camp. Brayden [McNabb] has to learn how to play in the NHL. We’re having to do it as we go along here. It’s totally different than last year.”

He noted that Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli weren’t with the Kings at this time last year.

“You look at all those things and it’s a big difference,” Sutter said. “Jordan Nolan never played in the playoffs for us and only played 60 games last year. We’re trying to find out if he can help us.

“We’re having to build it as we go here. And it’s not easy. It’s challenging.”

TONIGHT

AT PITTSBURGH

When: 4 PDT.

On the air: FS West. Radio: 790.

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Etc. For the Kings, it’s a rare contest against Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and company. Malkin is on an eight-game point-scoring streak, the second-longest active streak in the league. Former Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi is a plus-two in eight games for the Penguins.

lisa.dillman@latimes.com


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