Visits to Minnesota are usually a special affair for Derek Forbort. He’s from Duluth and always has family and friends to greet when the Kings come to town.
About 15 of them were in attendance this week, including parents Keith and Mary, when the trip took a scary turn. Forbort got cut on his right ear when the skate of Minnesota Wild forward Zach Parise struck him in an awkward play. He immediately went to the trainer’s room in discomfort.
“I’m sure my mom was a little worried, but the doctors did a good job of getting me stitched up and back out for the second [period],” Forbort said.
Forbort said he received about 15 stitches, and he returned to the game for his usual grunt work, notably a net-front tussle with Nino Niederreiter.
It was indicative of the toughness and no-flash defensive game that Forbort has hung his hat on. He recorded seven blocked shots and four hits against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday, and played 24 minutes 29 seconds, his most time since Feb.9.
Forbort tends to only get noticed when a mistake turns into a goal, but he has grown into the defensive role that earned him a two-year contract extension in October.
“I think the big thing with Derek coming out of school was he wasn’t quite sure what kind of player he was,” Kings coach John Stevens said. “We weren’t sure if he was an offensive player. We weren’t sure if he was going to be a shutdown guy, and I think through his development, he has a real, clear identity as a player now.”
The 26-year-old defenseman is in his second full season with the Kings after a long understudy: three seasons at North Dakota and 187 games in the minors. Much of that was spent with Ontario Reign coach Mike Stothers, as well as Mike O’Connell, Kings director of pro development, trying to find his path.
“Mike Stothers did a really good job of developing that with me in the minors,” Forbort said. “I was always a good skater … but he kind of helped me take it to the next level with little things, just kind of giving me confidence for the right situations to try and be the player I am.”
O’Connell helped slow down the game for Forbort. He learned better defending, with his 6-foot-4, 215-pound body and with his stick. Forbort is also in the top 20 in the league with 144 blocked shots.
That willingness to get in front of the puck is an extension of that toughness. Forbort showed up to the rink Tuesday with gauze stitched into his ear, and he wore an ear shield for the game. He was just glad that he didn’t incur more damage.
“I didn’t know what happened at first,” Forbort said. “I just saw some blood coming down. I was a little dizzy but I think I got pretty lucky that it got me where it did.”
Trevor Lewis update
Trevor Lewis is day to day because of an upper-body injury, general manager Rob Blake said via text message. Lewis was injured late in the first period Monday. The Kings did not practice Wednesday.
When: Thursday, 6 p.m. PDT.
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Update: Nathan MacKinnon is in the conversation for the Hart Trophy for most valuable player, and the Art Ross Trophy for scoring. He is on a 13-game point streak and is trying to become the second Avalanche player to lead the NHL in scoring, after Peter Forsberg in 2002-03. Colorado is 9-2-4 in its last 15 games.