PITTSBURGH — With the Kings scheduled to play their third road game in four days when they face the Penguins on Thursday at Consol Energy Center, Coach Darryl Sutter declared Wednesday’s practice an optional session.
Not surprisingly, most players opted out.
Forwards Tanner Pearson, Tyler Toffoli, Jordan Nolan and Kyle Clifford and defenseman Matt Greene shared the ice with goaltender Martin Jones, and all of them got a good workout that was led by Sutter. It’s normal for youngsters and players who get little ice time to participate in optional practices, but it’s a relatively new adventure for Greene, a veteran whose toughness and basic defensive play made him a leader during the team’s 2012 Stanley Cup run.
Greene, who was designated an alternate captain because of his stalwart play and the respect he has within the locker room, has been a healthy scratch in 12 of the last 13 games. Given that he was the only defenseman who skated Wednesday, it’s not likely he will play on Thursday.
After some tinkering, Sutter has settled on defense pairs of Jake Muzzin with Drew Doughty, Robyn Regehr with Slava Voynov, and Alec Martinez with Willie Mitchell. That leaves no room for Greene, who never was a speedster but has looked slow in his now-occasional appearances.
Greene said Wednesday he’s not about to complain about his status and he’s prepared to step in and step up, if asked.
“Just staying ready, just making sure you’re ready so you can help when you get the chance and get the call,” he said.
“You’ve just got to keep telling yourself that you’re part of the team and just help in any ways that you can, whether it’s on practice days or on game days, just making sure the guys are ready and keeping things light and doing everything you can to hope that we win games.
“You’re still part of the team and obviously the success of the team is the most important.”
Greene, who will be 31 in May, is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. He said he hasn’t thought about what he will do and said any negotiations are “something that we can handle at the end of the year. Right now I’m strictly worried about the season and winning games and trying to get to another Cup.”