File it under “What This Season Has Come Down to for the Kings”:
Such is the late-season phase for the Kings as they play out the string in the name of building toward next season. They are evaluating their organizational depth while trying to be competitive, and it has resulted in the aforementioned awkward lineup moves.
Here’s what we learned:
Carter is the first to admit this is a down season. He might still be impacted by a serious ankle tendon injury from last season, and there are nights when he looks like what he is: a 34-year-old with a lot of miles on his body.
Carter recorded his 700th point as he tries to stay positive. Asked if anything sticks out in his 969 games, Carter said, “A lot of games. It’s fun coming to the rink every day. There’s a lot of ups and downs, but when you see the guys every morning, it puts a smile on your face.”
Austin Wagner got significant time. Wagner played more than 12 minutes and got six shifts in the third period. That last part is notable because interim coach Willie Desjardins hasn’t been liberal in giving that late time to younger players. Wagner deserved more ice time after he scored the Kings’ only goal Thursday, a courtesy that was not extended to Matt Luff, who was promptly sent to the minors after he scored the only Kings goal in a two-game stretch.
Wagner didn’t score Saturday but was credited with six hits in an afternoon of otherwise little note for the Kings’ rookies. Carl Grundstrom was quiet outside of his first NHL minor penalty and Matt Roy was on the losing end of a score-tying two-on-two goal by Florida. One exception was Kurtis MacDermid and his heavyweight fight with Josh Brown.
The kids are learning in a losing culture. Is it ideal to develop prospects while losing game after game? The Kings are at least giving their rookies a crash course in how to handle adversity.
Roy, Wagner, Grundstrom, Sean Walker and Kurtis MacDermid are all thrown into a losing fire. Jonny Brodzinski and Paul LaDue, too.
“It’s good that they’re getting NHL games in, but to come to a team that’s in last place, [there’s] no direction right now,” Drew Doughty said. “Obviously we’re playing for something, but we’re playing for nothing, and it’s tough for these guys.
“I guess it’s a good opportunity that they’re getting some ice time and getting some more playing time than they probably would have if we were in the playoff race, so I think it’s good in that sense.”