The replay shows Jeff Carter looking down at his foot just before he goes to the dressing room, as if it were an equipment issue and not a serious injury.
Carter didn’t think much of it when he went into the boards with Montreal Canadiens defenseman Jeff Petry on Oct.18.
“I just thought I got cut,” Carter said. “I went back to get stitches and then they started looking around.”
That’s when Carter knew he was in for the longest inactive stretch of his NHL career, a four-month rehabilitation of a lacerated ankle tendon that progressed this week with his first practices. Just being back with his teammates was medicine.
“It’s never easy,” Carter said. “Me, personally, this is the longest I’ve been out for any extended period of time. It was a new challenge for me, I guess. Team-wise, nobody wants to sit out. Nobody wants to be out of the lineup for four-and-a-half months. It’s been a lot sitting at home watching the games, sitting on the couch.”
Carter only said “no” when asked to guess when he might return. Friday was his second practice with the team, and Kings coach John Stevens said “I would say it’s doubtful, but I have no idea” when asked about Saturday as a possibility.
Stevens reunited Carter with linemates Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli to give Carter repetitions there. Tobias Rieder skated on the top line with Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown. The Kings do not have many practice days available and the idea is to get Carter reacquainted with teammates.
“He looked like he was flying out there today,” Toffoli said. “Hopefully he feels well, and well enough to play. I wish I could move like he does. I think a lot of people do.”
It’s been a mixed bag for Pearson and Toffoli without Carter. Pearson, a 24-goal scorer last season, has 10 goals in 61 games and is scoreless in his past 12 but has been a regular nuisance in front of the net. Toffoli has 19 goals but has scored once since Jan. 6.
“It’s definitely been a long season without him,” Toffoli said. “Guys have stepped up, and I think we’re ready for him to come and bring his minutes back into the game, just play his game and things just kind of fall into place.”
When Carter does return, he’ll have new faces beside him in Rieder, Dion Phaneuf and Nate Thompson, all acquired in the past two weeks. Carter took note.
“When management goes out and makes trades like they have, it’s a sign to the players that they believe in the team and they think they can put something together,” Carter said. “In this room, it gives the guys a boost. I think we’ve seen that.”
Rieder reveling in victory
Rieder and Kopitar wore red tape on their yellow socks in a nod to Germany’s flag colors following its win against Canada in the semifinals of the Pyeongchang Games.
Rieder said it was Kopitar’s idea. They were teammates for Team Europe in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. Rieder was able to brag some when he greeted his mostly Canadian teammates.
“You kind of have to do it,” Rieder said. “You don’t beat Canada in hockey every day. It’s all in good fun.
“It’s kind of sad I can’t be a part of that but I’m really happy for them and hopefully they keep going all the way.”
When: Saturday, 7 p.m.
On the air: TV: FSW; Radio: 790.
Update: Edmonton has lost seven of its past nine games as trade talk surrounding some of its forwards heats up. The Kings won the first two games of the season series by a combined score of 10-2.