Tyler Toffoli continues to impress
OTTAWA — The most impressive aspect of rookie right wing Tyler Toffoli’s recent play isn’t that he has earned points in three straight games and four of the last five, because he has always been a scorer.
He personifies one of hockey’s great, quaint sayings — that the puck seems to find him. He was a prolific scorer in the junior ranks and in his one full season with Manchester (N.H.) of the American Hockey League, and he has eight goals and 15 points in 18 games with the Kings this season.
What’s more crucial is he’s becoming grittier and learning to be more responsible defensively, essential to success in the Kings’ system. He contributed an assist and played about 141/2 minutes in their 3-1 victory at Toronto on Wednesday — his highest total in 14 games — and was plus-one defensively. His plus-11 rating ranks third on the team behind veterans Anze Kopitar (plus-13) and Dustin Brown (plus-12).
“Those little things are what you need to do to stay in the lineup,” Toffoli said Friday. “I kind of got away from that at the beginning of the year and that’s what I have to do, to play my own game, to create space for myself and just to help my linemates. Obviously, you play better with the puck and that’s what I feel I have to do to get the puck.”
Mike Richards, who has been centering Toffoli and Kyle Clifford, said Toffoli has shown a lot.
“He’s a smart player first and foremost,” Richards said. “He seems to find open areas on the ice. He always seems to be in the right spot to score goals. He makes it easy on you and he talks out there and he’s just easy to play with.”
Toffoli, who grew up in the Toronto area, saw many friends and relatives when the Kings played there. Saturday’s game will be another homecoming for him because he played junior hockey for the Ottawa 67s and won the Ontario Hockey League scoring title with them in 2010-11.
“It was fun playing in Toronto,” he said. “And now going back to Ottawa, where I played four years, it’s a lot of fun too.”
Goaltender Jonathan Quick, out of the lineup since he strained a groin muscle Nov. 12, skated briefly Thursday. The plan is to proceed slowly, based on how he feels.
“Just an initial, controlled skate,” said Jeff Solomon, the Kings’ vice president of hockey operations and legal affairs and a member of their traveling party on this trip.
Center Colin Fraser, who suffered a concussion Wednesday after being hit into the boards by Toronto’s Frazer McLaren, didn’t practice Friday and won’t play Saturday, per the NHL’s concussion protocol. However, he said he felt good and had wanted to skate Friday but was told to instead ride a stationary bike.
“I never had one before,” he said of the concussion.
Fraser’s place between Daniel Carcillo and Jordan Nolan was filled in practice by Linden Vey, but Matt Frattin and Trevor Lewis also were in the mix. Coach Darryl Sutter wouldn’t reveal his plans beyond saying that Fraser won’t play.
“We’ll decide [Friday night], talk to the guys, get a better read on Ottawa,” Sutter said.
KINGS AT OTTAWA
When: 11 a.m. PST.
On the air: TV: FS West; Radio: 1150.
Etc.: The Senators extended their standings-points streak to 2-0-2 on Thursday with a 3-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres. Winger Bobby Ryan, traded to Ottawa by the Ducks last summer, has a team-leading 15 goals. The Senators won’t have defenseman Jared Cowen, who will finish a two-game suspension for an illegal hit to the head of Buffalo’s Zemgus Girgensons.
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