The only goal scored by the Kings in the last two games was by Matt Luff, but that wasn’t enough to keep the rookie up with the big club.
Luff was re-assigned to the minors Friday and the Kings are expected to recall another forward, likely Carl Grundstrom, for Saturday’s game at the Arizona Coyotes. The Kings need to give their other prospects a look in the final weeks of the season, and this happens to be at the expense of Luff, who has had a busy commute between Ontario and Los Angeles.
If it seems like a curious decision to demote a player with eight goals in 32 games, coach Willie Desjardins said not to read into it too much.
“I think he’s a guy that’s growing and learning, so I think guys like that will go up and down,” Desjardins said of Luff. “I think that’s just what will happen. There’s other guys we need to look at.
“It’s not like, when he went out, that he was bad. He wasn’t bad in his game. But I think it’s just matter of … we want to look at a few guys. He needs to play. If he’s not going to play minutes up here, then it’s better he gets more ice time down there. It’s just for his development.”
Desjardins played Luff fewer than 10 minutes in each of the last three games, which was fewer than his fourth-line linemates Kyle Clifford and Trevor Lewis. On Thursday, Luff played a team-low three minutes, 12 seconds in the first period.
Desjardins said it’s a difficult line to toe in giving a young player enough ice time to get fully assessed while “at the same time, you have guys like Clifford and Lewis that deserve ice time as well, like those guys have played hard for us all year. It’s tough if you have a young guy that comes that hasn’t proved it [and] gets more ice time than them. It’s a bit of a balancing act, as you go. But when we bring a young guy up, we do want to give him some time to play.”
Desjardins would have to work that balancing act with Grundstrom if Grundstrom makes his NHL debut. The former second-round draft pick by the Toronto Maple Leafs arrived in the Jake Muzzin trade and totaled three goals and seven assists in his first 13 games with Ontario. He has 16 goals in 55 minor league games this season.
Austin Wagner has not practiced with the team and is at least three or four days out from returning from a lower-body injury, Desjardins said.
Leipsic vs. Maroon
It was an odd sight when Brendan Leipsic confronted Pat Maroon after the St. Louis Blues winger went after Leipsic at the end boards Thursday. The two exchanged words from the benches.
“We were just kind of jawing back and forth and he took a run at me from the blue line,” Leipsic said. “I just got out of the way. It was a cheap shot and he was just coming with his hands up. But it’s part of the game.”
Leipsic is listed at 5 feet 10, 182 pounds and last received a fighting major two years ago in the minors. Maroon is 6-3, 225 pounds and has more than 50 fights on his NHL resume. Leipsic said the size disparity is why he took exception to the play.
Asked if he would have dropped the gloves, Leipsic said, “Maybe if he wasn’t expecting it and there were a couple of guys around me and I had a little bit of backup. But he’s got about 50 pounds on me.”
When: Saturday, 5 p.m. PST.
On the air: TV: FS West; Radio: iHeartRadio (LA Kings Audio Network).
Update: Arizona goalie Darcy Kuemper has 16 wins since Jan.1, which ties him with Andrei Vasilevskiy and Jordan Binnington for the most in the NHL in that span. Another former Kings player, Brad Richardson, leads Arizona with 16 goals. The Coyotes have won eight of 10 games to move into the playoff picture.