The Kings claimed right wing Nikita Scherbak off waivers from the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday, hoping the former first-round draft pick can restart his career in new surroundings.
Russian-born Scherbak, who will be 23 later this month, was selected 26th overall by the Canadiens in 2014. He scored one goal in three games in the 2016-17 season and had four goals and six points in 26 games with Montreal this season. He played two seasons in the Western Hockey League and two seasons in the American Hockey League and so is familiar with North American rinks and the style of play.
The 6-2, 192-pouind winger, who shoots left, has been injured recently and will be examined by the Kings’ medical staff when he joins the team. The Kings rank last in the NHL in scoring at an average of 2.12 goals per game.
“He’s a skill player, first-rounder one time,” Kings coach Willie Desjardins said Sunday after the team practiced in advance of Sunday night’s game against Carolina at Staples Center. “He’s got some speed, so I think it gives us some chance to look at a guy. We’re still trying to find the right guys on the wing out of those young guys and he’s a young guy so it’s a good chance for us to look at a young player.”
He also said he hopes winger Ilya Kovalchuk will have a good influence on Scherbak. “It’s interesting him coming in too. Kovalchuk, him and I, I haven’t given him that ice time but I sure like his character and he’ll help with the young Russian coming in,” Desjardins said. “Kovalchuk’s got great character and he trains hard, so that will be good for a young guy coming in. He’ll be able to mentor [Scherbak] a little.”
Just past noon, the Kings announced that Kovalchuk had undergone an ankle bursectomy procedure Sunday morning and said the 35-year-old forward is expected to miss about four weeks.
Kovalchuk had started the season well, scoring five goals and 14 points in his first 14 games, but he had no points in his next 11 games and was demoted by Desjardins to the fourth line and to the second power-play unit.
In addition, Desjardins said the defense pairs he sent out for Sunday’s morning skate—Derek Forbort with Drew Doughty, Jake Muzzin with Alec Martinez, and Dion Phaneuf with Oscar Fantenberg—were subject to change because the defense corps is “just banged up a bit here.” Paul LaDue would step in if one of the designated six can’t play.