Darryl Sutter carefully approaches the topic of injuries, and that didn't change in the bowels of Madison Square Garden on Sunday morning.
"Nic Dowd's fine," the Kings Coach said, a coy smile forming at the sides of his mouth. "He's enjoying New York."
Dowd is day-to-day because of a lower-body injury he sustained in the Kings' 4-2 loss to the Islanders on Saturday night; he did not participate in a Sunday morning practice.
Defenseman Matt Greene, who was scratched against the Islanders, was also absent from the ice. Sutter said Greene is dealing with "off-and-on" back and groin injuries and, like Dowd and forward Tyler Toffoli, will work back during this four-game road trip. Teams are not required by the NHL to disclose information on injuries.
Toffoli has been out since Dec. 20 with a lower-body injury and is slowly adding to his load. He did an off-ice workout Sunday before skating on toward the end of practice, and participated in a few drills. He was the last Kings player to leave the ice.
The Kings — who, it should be noted, have also been without starting goaltender Jonathan Quick since the first game of the season — are trying to locate health and consistency at the same time. They have lost three straight. They have not won three straight since a five-game winning streak in late November. Their next test comes against the New York Rangers at 4 p.m. Monday, and Sutter's lineup could be dotted by patched holes.
Sutter slid Anze Kopitar onto Dowd's line for the third period Saturday, which upped Kopitar's ice time and allowed the other three lines to stay intact. Dowd was centering with Andy Andreoff and Trevor Lewis in the first and second periods because Devin Setoguchi was scratched. During practice on Sunday, Lewis centered the line with Andreoff on his left and Setoguchi on his right.
The defense pairs have been similarly mercurial. Sutter put Jake Muzzin with Drew Doughty, Alec Martinez with Derek Forbort and Kevin Gravel with Tom Gilbert against the Islanders. It was Gilbert's first appearance since Dec. 22, as he and Andreoff were regular scratches throughout the season. Their recent appearances illustrate Sutter's willingness, and need, to test an array of looks.
"You just need to stay sharp all the time," Gilbert said of how he handled the 12 straight scratches. "You stay in the best game shape you can, get as much ice time as you can and just keep working as if you're playing every day."
But can that be difficult to do, especially when watching becomes more routine than playing?
"It can be, sure," the 34-year-old Gilbert said. "But this is what we do. In this league you have to be ready, and I think everyone in this locker room always is."
VS. NEW YORK RANGERS
When: Monday, 4 p.m. PST
Where: Madison Square Garden
On the air: TV: Fox Sports West; Radio: 790
Update: This will be the teams' first of two meetings this season. The Kings (22-20-4) are coming off a loss to the Islanders and are currently outside of the Western Conference's playoff picture. The Rangers (30-16-1) beat the Detroit Red Wings, 1-0, in overtime on Sunday and currently possess the Eastern Conference's first wild-card spot.