Jonathan Quick is going back in and Ilya Kovalchuk is moving back up.
Quick is expected to make his first start in more than a month Thursday when the Kings play the Edmonton Oilers. He was the first goalie off the ice at the morning skate at Rogers Place, a telltale sign he’s the starting goalie.
Quick has not played since Oct. 23 because of surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee. He returned as backup Tuesday and just his return to the locker room carried weight for the Kings.
“Quickie will say a few things here and there in the room, but just his presence on the ice and in the room is huge,” Drew Doughty said. “Obviously goalies are kind of quieter guys — they kind of stay to themselves type [of] thing — but having Quickie back is just amazing for us. The confidence grows. Cal [Petersen] did a great job for us, though. He was amazing. He won us some games we had no business winning, and that’s what Quickie’s done for us forever.”
Kovalchuk was moved to the third line, with Adrian Kempe and Matt Luff, in line rushes, and was on the first power-play unit. Both are promotions by interim coach Willie Desjardins, who has buried the $6.25-million winger in the lineup and turned it into a major side story even though the Kings have won two straight games.
“I think it’s always a matter of trying to find the right spot,” Desjardins said. “You always look at what’s best for the team. You always hope it’s the best for the individual as well. Sometimes it’s not. But he’s a guy that I think can help us. We’ve got to put him in the right spot, and hopefully that will work.”
Kovalchuk will try to help the Kings score their first road power-play goal. They are 0 for 26. His first-unit role would also boost his minutes: Kovalchuk has played fewer than 10 minutes the last two games.
“Hopefully he gets more ice time on that first unit,” Doughty said. “Like I said, he’s been a great teammate. He’s been a great teammate. He’s been a great guy. He’s still smiling, still loving life. We’re really happy to have him on our team here. We’re really fortunate.”