Loss of Anze Kopitar could be another setback for Kings
Their last five-on-five goal was scored Feb. 12 against the New York Rangers.
Since then, the Kings have scored one short-handed goal at Washington on Tuesday and a power-play goal at St. Louis on Thursday.
It can be explained, in part, by the loss of two of their better five-on-five players to injuries on an unforgiving trip for the Kings. Winger Marian Gaborik was injured in a knee-on-knee collision in the Rangers game and is out for the foreseeable future, and the Kings’ leading scorer, Anze Kopitar, left the St. Louis game with a lower-body injury and is considered day to day.
Kopitar, at least, is still with the team. He didn’t take the ice for an optional workout — in fact, many skipped Friday’s session — and more won’t be known about his status until Saturday’s morning skate here.
If he misses the game against the Nashville Predators, and much beyond that, it would be a considerable setback. He is adept in various situations, responsible in all zones and eats up a lot of minutes. Fourteen of his 17 goals this season have come at even strength.
“He’s our best player, so it’s a big loss for us,’ Kings forward Dustin Brown said. “In saying that, it’s an opportunity for other guys to elevate and for other guys to step into the lineup and have an impact.
“I don’t know the extent of his injury, and all that, but these are the times where you really find out what you’re made of.”
They are expected to recall forward Michael Mersch from their American Hockey League affiliate in Ontario, according to the Kings’ hockey operations department. Mersch is to join the team in Nashville, and he had one goal and three points in 15 games with the Kings in his previous NHL call-up.
Kopitar was limited to five-plus minutes of ice time and was unavailable after the first period in St. Louis. The Blues won, 2-1, in overtime.
“We lost him pretty early,” Brown said. “Going into the next game, if he’s not able to play, at least we’ll have that extra guy in the lineup. It’s tough to lose a guy that early in the game because we had to do it with Gabby [Gaborik] in New York. The rhythm of the bench [changes] because you’re missing a player pretty much essentially the whole game.
“Again, we’ll move forward.”
Kings forwards Andy Andreoff (6 minutes 30 seconds) and Tanner Pearson (8:40) played sparingly against the Blues. Defenseman Drew Doughty’s whopping 35 minutes 16 seconds of ice time was a career high, and a Kings’ record for time on ice since the statistic started to be tracked in 2000, according to Sportsnet Stats.
“That’s remarkable,” Kings goalie Jonathan Quick said. “You can’t say enough about what he brings to the team, the minutes he plays, day after day. He’s obviously a special player for a reason.”
Quick missed three games after getting injured in the final seconds in the opening game of the trip, at Boston. He has been exceptional in his two starts since returning.
“I feel good. I was hoping to come back sooner,” he said. “You hate watching games. You always want to be part of it. That’s tougher watching than playing.”
Quick was called for tripping in the first period — and the Blues scored on the ensuing power play — and he and Kings Coach Darryl Sutter took issue with the call. Quick thought it “made no sense” and thought it could have been an interference call on the Blues’ Scottie Upshall.
“That’s a bad call. That’s what I told the referees…. I’m sure Jonathan Quick was trying to trip him,” said Sutter, sarcastically. “It’s hockey, not basketball. And they scored on it.”
KINGS NEXT UP
When: Saturday, 5 p.m. PST.
On the air: TV: FS West; Radio: 790.
Update: Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne recorded his third shutout of the season and the 39th of his career in Thursday’s 2-0 win over the Boston Bruins. The Predators blocked 20 shots against the Bruins, led by defenseman Roman Josi’s six.
Follow Lisa Dillman on Twitter: @reallisa
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