Jeff Carter's return to the Kings' lineup was hardly overlooked. How could it be, considering he scored the game-winning goal in the third period against Toronto?
"That was an easy one," Carter said, giving credit to linemate Marian Gaborik's clever pass.
Still, there were other competing story lines vying for attention Thursday night. You can assume that the unassuming Carter didn't mind being under the radar a bit, on a night when newcomers, center Vinny Lecavalier and defenseman Luke Schenn, made their debuts with the Kings one day after being traded from Philadelphia.
Carter sat out five games and most of another because of an undisclosed upper-body injury. The day after his return to the lineup, there were no obvious setbacks, another key step forward.
"I felt all right, skating-wise and all that," Carter said Friday. "Still a little ways to go but all in all, it was a good night.
"You don't want to come back and have the chance of getting reinjured or whatever. Everybody is different. Everybody knows their body and what you can take and what you can't take."
Carter was the team's leading scorer when he was injured. Now he is third behind Tyler Toffoli and Anze Kopitar, trailing Toffoli by two points. His goal against the Maple Leafs was his 12th of the season.
Carter had two shots on goal, won four of five faceoffs and played 14 minutes 24 seconds, as Coach Darryl Sutter was able to effectively roll four lines.
"He hasn't really played since the 22nd of December, so you had to really manage it and watch it," Sutter said. "He was able to manage it. When the goalie [Toronto's James Reimer] was out [for an extra attacker], I wanted him out there at some point because Kopi was running out of gas a little bit.
"Jeff made a really strong play in front of the net in terms of the physical part of it."
Schenn was also on the ice in the final minute with the Kings trying to protect their 2-1 lead.
"He made a really good play at the end too," Sutter said. "We're going to use him in those situations, that's what his job is, to kill penalties and be in those situations like that."
Lecavalier assisted on defenseman Jake Muzzin's goal in the third period, doing the hard work along the boards.
"We made a lot of good plays," Sutter said. "They [Toronto] check like us … there's five guys involved in the work part of it all the time….You have to make plays that are hard plays to make. Some guys will make them, some won't because there's little bit of courage involved in that.
"That's always been a strength of Vinny, so it was good for him to do that."
KINGS NEXT UP
VS. ST. LOUIS
When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
On the air: TV: FS West. Radio: 790.
Update: The Kings have not lost to the Blues at home in the regular season since Feb. 17, 2011, a streak of six games…. Heading into Friday night's game at Anaheim, the Blues were winless in their last four games, undone by third-period woes. Goalie Jake Allen was scheduled to get the start against the Ducks. No. 2 goalie Brian Elliott has appeared in 15 games and has a goals-against average of 2.41 and a save percentage of .915.