The Kings skate into Carolina on Tuesday missing two of their top forwards, a situation coach John Stevens is calling more an opportunity than a problem.
Gone are right wing Dustin Brown and center Trevor Lewis, the first serving a one-game suspension for rough play and the second a victim of a rough play that will keep him sidelined indefinitely. And those absences, Stevens said, leave him with 35 minutes of ice time to fill against the Hurricanes.
“We’re not going to take all these minutes and give them to one guy, but there is opportunity there for lots of different people that are, quite honestly, waiting for those opportunities,” Stevens said after the team’s brisk 50-minute practice Monday. “There are guys that have had those opportunities at lower levels or different times. Most of the time you’re pleasantly surprised because guys are anxious for that opportunity and want to make the best of it.”
Stevens said he’s considering several options for the game Tuesday, including breaking up the fourth line of Jonny Brodzinski, Andy Andreoff and Nick Shore, which combined for three goals in two games last weekend in Florida. In practice Monday, Brodzinski centered a line with Adrian Kempe and Tanner Pearson.
Brown, third on the team in points (38) and goals (16) and fourth in assists (22), will sit out Tuesday for kneeing Tampa Bay defenseman Mikhail Sergachev in the second period Saturday during a 4-3 loss. Not surprisingly, Stevens and Brown — who three weeks ago was fined $10,000 for cross-checking Pittsburgh’s Justin Schultz — disagreed with the suspension.
“I always respect the league’s decision but I don’t agree with it,” Stevens said. “I thought [Brown] was totally planted and leaning with the shoulder.”
Added Brown: “I saw it differently than they did. They thought I stuck my knee out. I felt like I was going through and he just sidestepped me. So I hit him in the knee, yeah. But it’s the result of him making a move laterally.”
Lewis returned to Southern California over the weekend to be examined by the team’s medical personnel after Florida’s Jared McCann drove him into the boards headfirst on Friday. McCann wasn’t penalized for the play and Stevens had no update on Lewis, who was still undergoing tests.
The Kings nearly lost another forward Monday when Tyler Toffoli took a stick to the face and left the ice bleeding from the mouth. He later returned and finished practice.
KINGS AT CAROLINA HURRICANES
When: Tuesday, 4 p.m. PST.
On the air: TV: FS West; Radio: 790.
Update: Carolina comes into this one with momentum, riding a two-game winning streak and a 5-2-1 record in its last eight. Seven of those games were at PNC Arena, where the Hurricanes are concluding an eight-game homestand. The Kings will be playing the third game of a season-high seven-game trip. Carolina has been particularly tough defensively during the homestand, holding opponents to one or fewer goals in regulation five times in seven games.