Kings center Jarret Stoll, who has been out of the lineup since suffering a head injury against Vancouver on March 12, said he will return Thursday against Edmonton.
He has missed nine games, but felt confident enough to return after back-to-back sessions with his teammates. The Kings are two points out of a wild-card playoff spot and have six games remaining.
“Obviously it’s an important time, important games, big games,” Stoll said on Thursday morning. “This is definitely the time where you want to be playing as opposed to watching your team.
“I’m excited to be back in.”
Kings Coach Darryl Sutter said he would not have to “manage” Stoll’s minutes, adding: “He plays a third-line checking centerman. We’ll use him and he’ll hold up his end of the deal and I trust that’s what he’s going to do. He’s well-rested and he’s healthy.”
With Stoll returning, it is expected that center Mike Richards will be a healthy scratch for the first time in his long NHL career. Richards struggled in his return on the Kings’ trip, in particular against Chicago on Monday night.
“Probably eased the way back a little too much and would have liked to have skated a little bit more before I got called up but that’s the way it goes sometimes,” Richards said. “Would have liked to have put up some numbers and get back into it a little bit more. But it’s a tough time to jump into it.
“I thought I did all right until Chicago. End of the road trip, I don’t know what it was but I felt good. I just couldn’t do anything which was frustrating.”
Richards had plenty of company against the Blackhawks. But he was a minus-two and his difficulties were visible.
“You’re going to have bad games, but it’s frustrating when you feel good and you go the other way, instead of doing something productive,” he said.
It is coming down to the Kings and the Jets for the final wild-card playoff spot. Winnipeg is the closest NHL team to his hometown in Kenora (Ontario) and his future wife, Lindsey MacDonald, has ties to the Jets as her father, orthopedic surgeon Peter MacDonald, is one of the team’s main doctors. She is a family medicine resident.
“It’s bad when my fiancee is not even hoping for us,” Richards said, joking. “No, she is. Her dad might not be.”
Meanwhile, the Kings signed left wing Tanner Pearson to a two-year contract extension, something of a bridge deal, carrying an annual average value of $1.4 million per year.
“It’s exciting news,” said Pearson who has been out since January because of a broken leg and had hoped to be closer to returning. “I think we’re both happy to get a deal done. To stay here is awesome too. It’s good news considering yesterday’s news. It kind of gets a little stuff off my chest, but we still have the other thing to go.”
Pearson is due to have another X-ray but his chances of returning before the end of the regular season are increasingly remote. He was pleased to take care of the contract situation, however.
“I want to be here as a long as possible,” he said. “I know I love L.A. I love the team, the fans, everything about it. It’s one of the best places to play, in my opinion. To be here at least for another two years, is special, and I think we have a pretty special group here too.”
The next major concern for the Kings is striking a deal with forward Tyler Toffoli, another pending restricted free agent. There doesn’t appear to be any progress with forward Justin Williams, who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. His agent said, via email, late last month that there were no talks going on.
Additionally, the Kings signed forward Jonny Brodzinski to a two-year, entry-level contract. He just finished his collegiate season at St. Cloud State (Minn).
Follow Lisa Dillman on Twitter @reallisa