Eight months have passed since Nikita Scherbak played in an NHL game.
Even after he was claimed off waivers by the Kings, he had to wait an additional four days to get his work visa in order. He was cleared Friday and understandably felt freed.
“That’s a weight off my shoulders, and I’m excited to be playing [Saturday], for sure,” Scherbak said. “[I’m] just ready.”
It’s an unfortunate, yet ideal fit for both parties. Scherbak is amped up for a new start and the Kings seek any potential injection of offense. Their scoring issues coincide with their first rematch against the Vegas Golden Knights in a reminder of the Kings’ three goals scored in a four-game playoff sweep by Vegas in April.
Not much has changed since that series. The Kings rank last in the NHL with 2.10 goals per game and have turned to waiver pickups Scherbak and Brendan Leipsic to help address the offense. Scherbak, 22, is expected to play on a line with Adrian Kempe and Tyler Toffoli in his first NHL game since April 3, with the Montreal Canadiens.
He said it’s not a matter of getting up to speed.
“I think it’s more a question of confidence-wise [and being] mentally prepared [because] I wasn’t playing the game for a while,” Scherbak said. “I think I should be all right with my speed. I think I should be able to keep up because no matter what, I’ve been skating a lot. I’ve been practicing. It’s not like I haven’t been doing anything for two or three months.”
Leipsic seemed to infuse some adrenaline into the lineup upon his debut, and the Kings wish Scherbak can emulate that.
“Those two guys bring a lot of energy,” Kempe said. “They’ll give us a lot of speed, and that’s kind of what we need. That’s what [Carl Hagelin] brought when he came as well.”
Interim coach Willie Desjardins was cautious with Scherbak because “we have to see if it translates from practice to the game,” but was optimistic.
“I think it’s going to be good to see Nikita,” Desjardins said. “He has lots of skill, and it will be really interesting to see how that line works.”
Scherbak switched from jersey No. 38 to No. 21 because it’s closest to his preferred No. 22, worn by Trevor Lewis now. It represents a new identity that begins with his new team and new linemates.
“I’ve watched two games now and I’ve kind of figured out what kind of style we’re trying to do here and what we’re focusing on,” Scherbak said. “I’ll try to talk to them a lot. I think they’re going to be talking to me a lot, because it’s a different system from Montreal. It’s going to be a little bit hard. But I think I should be fine. “
Drew Doughty’s pointed comments postgame Thursday still reverberated. His assessment of a lack of emotional involvement wasn’t new from the Kings’ dressing room, but he called their performance “pathetic” and said they’re not competing.
Desjardins understood the frustration.
“Everyone in that room’s a professional, and they’ll take what they need out of those comments,” Desjardins said. “We all have to look at our own game, and what we’ve done … and coaches included. When comments are made, we’ve got to evaluate it. Do we have more? Yeah, I think we have more. I think we can find more. That’s all Drew wants, and that’s all everybody in the room wants.”
When: Saturday, 1 p.m.
On the air: TV: FS West; Radio: iHeartRadio (LA Kings Audio Network).