The timing wasn't great for Alex Iafallo as the regular season wound down.
The rookie winger sat out the final four games because of an upper-body injury, just as the Kings pushed for a playoff berth. Then, in a bittersweet aside to the season finale Saturday, Iafallo's alma mater, Minnesota Duluth, won the NCAA championship, a year after he ended his college career with a loss in the title game.
"It's pretty wild: Two years in a row going to the finals," Iafallo said of the Bulldogs. "Finally getting a win there."
Iafallo can try to make up for lost time, and memories, soon if he returns for the Kings' playoff opener Wednesday against the host Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena. He practiced Monday and sounded optimistic about getting into his first NHL playoff game.
"I'm feeling great right now," Iafallo said. "Depending on what happens and how [Tuesday] goes, we'll figure it out. I'm feeling great, though."
Coach John Stevens was slightly more definitive when asked about the possibility of getting his top-line left wing back.
"I think there's a real good chance he'll be ready to play," Stevens said.
Iafallo is not among the Kings' top 10 scorers but his forechecking presence next to Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown allows the Kings to align better, depth-wise, on the left side. He has played there most of his first NHL season, straight out of college with no minor league experience. At this time last year, Iafallo was flying back home after a loss to Denver in the NCAA championship game. He'll be in better mood for his next flight, to Las Vegas.
"Obviously being out for a while here is tough," Iafallo said. "It's definitely very exciting to be back, especially this time of year. It's going to be a fun run here."
On another injury front, there was no clarity on Jake Muzzin. The veteran defenseman practiced in a red no-contact jersey and Stevens said "we're still not sure" about Muzzin's status with an upper-body injury. Muzzin has sat out five games since he was hit by Micheal Ferland of the Calgary Flames against the boards March 26.
"I know it's an important time, and you want to be playing," Muzzin said. "I've been bag skating, and it sucks. I'm ready to get out of here and start playing again, so we'll see what [Tuesday] brings."
The Kings, 3-4-1 without Muzzin this season, practiced with Oscar Fantenberg and Paul LaDue in the first and third defense pairings, respectively. Kevin Gravel is on hand but Stevens opted for Fantenberg in the season finale. Stevens reiterated that Derek Forbort (lower-body injury) is not available.
Defending Vegas' transition game is a major bullet point for the Kings. Stevens made a distinction between fast skaters and playing quickly, and said Vegas checks off both boxes.
"I think they're able to do that because they're deep," Stevens said. "And they're deep beyond four lines."
Vegas will get deeper if it returns third-leading scorer and noted Kings nemesis David Perron, as well as defenseman Luca Sbisa, who was injured in the Feb. 27 game against the Kings. The teams have only four games of history to go by, but their season series was heated at times (see Kyle Clifford versus Ryan Reaves) and Vegas has made it clear that it doesn't plan on being a nice regular-season story.
"We stopped looking at ourselves as an expansion team a long time ago," coach Gerard Gallant told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "We think when we're playing the game the right way that we're a pretty good hockey team. We're getting healthy at the right time and I expect us to play well in the playoffs."
Trevor Lewis and his wife Kara welcomed boy-girl twins, Boone and Brix, on Monday, the Kings announced. … Nate Thompson sat out practiced for personal reasons, Stevens said. … About $25,000 were raised for those affected by the Humboldt Broncos fatal bus accident through the Kings' 50/50 raffle Saturday, a team spokesman said.