Kings Notebook (Dec. 29)
Handzus on Tuesday was selected to represent his native Slovakia in the upcoming Olympic hockey tournament, which will be held in Vancouver in February while the NHL takes a two-week break.
"It's great," Handzus said Tuesday, before the Kings left for Calgary and the start of a two-game road trip. "Obviously it's going to be the best players there, so it's going to be exciting. Playing for your country is always exciting, and I will get to play with a lot of friends that I have played with over the years, so it's going to be nice for sure."
Handzus played for Slovakia in 2002 and was selected again in 2006, but separated his shoulder in the second-to-last game before the Olympic break and didn’t get a chance to participate in the Games in Turin, Italy. Handzus' international experience also includes a gold medal with Slovakia in the 2002 World Championships.
Now known as one of the Kings’ top defensive forwards, Handzus should bring some grit to a Slovakian team that doesn’t lack skill up front and includes former Kings Ziggy Palffy, Jozef Stumpel, Martin Strbak and Lubomir Visnovsky.
"We're in this generation and we have played a lot together," Handzus said. "We won gold in 2002, and this is probably going to be one of the last international tournaments for a lot of guys in our group. We're getting older, so it's going to be exciting.
This group of guys, we know each other and we have some really, really good players, game-breakers, so it's up to us about how we get together. Obviously we want to make something happen there."
There has been, and will continue to be, substantial debate about whether the NHL should halt its season and allow players to participate in the Olympics, given the disruption to the league and the risk of injury to its players.
Players, at least those who have spoken publicly, seem greatly in favor of NHL participation in the Games.
"It's the Olympics," Handzus said. "It's the best tournament in the world for international play, and playing for your country is always exciting. You know that a lot of people back home, your family, they're watching you and the whole country is excited to watch it. It brings excitement to the locker room.
"It's a short tournament. It's only 14 days, so I don't think it should matter a lot to the NHL. Obviously it's in Canada, so it's going to have great coverage. I think it's going to help the game, for sure, and it's going to showcase a lot of great players. I think it's going to be great and it's going to be exciting."
Jarret Stoll, who suffered a strained groin on Dec. 14, flew with the Kings to Calgary on Tuesday, but Stoll and coach Terry Murray insist that Stoll will not play Wednesday against Calgary or Thursday at Minnesota.
Murray said Stoll will continue on- and off-ice workouts during the road trip.
Randy Jones, out of the lineup since Dec. 15, continues to suffer symptoms from his collision with Edmonton’s Dustin Penner, but Murray said Jones has not been diagnosed with a concussion and is doing off-ice workouts.
"There has been improvement," Murray said. "I spoke with him yesterday. There's improvement. He still feels a little bit woozy when he wakes up in the morning, but it clears up and there's nothing the rest of the day until he starts to get on the bike, and then it kind of kicks in again. But then after finishing, it settles down and things are good.
"So everything, from that side of it, is very positive. That's moving in the right direction. Hopefully, as soon as we get back, he will be able to get going on the ice in practice."
NO REST FOR WEARY
The NHL’s schedule-makers did the Kings no favors this week.
The Kings play Calgary on Tuesday night, then face a flight to Minnesota that, with the time chance and customs, will prevent them from getting into their hotel until the early-morning hours. The Kings then play Minnesota on Wednesday night.
Murray said the Kings’ staff would do everything possible to maximize player energy.
"We'll probably not go to the rink in the mornings," Murray said. "If we do go to the rink, it would be tomorrow, and do our meeting, but certainly not in Minnesota. It would be, bring them together at the hotel. Rest is the most important thing. On the plane, rehydration is a big them for us.
"Tim (Adams, strength and conditioning coach) is constantly working and encouraging the players to have a lot of fluids, a lot of meals, and also to get the proper rest. That's all you can do to manage your personnel, so that game two can be as fresh as possible."