Kovalchuk leads Devils into L.A. to face Kings
EL SEGUNDO -- The Kings caught a break this morning when winger Wayne Simmonds
was able to skate and was deemed ready to play in tonight’s game against the New Jersey Devils at STAPLES Center.
Simmonds suffered a lower-body injury -- later clarified to be a bruise -- late in the second period of Thursday’s game against Dallas and had to leave the game early in the third period. His status for tonight’s game had been questionable.
But Simmonds will be able to play tonight, an important factor given that he plays on the Kings’ ``shutdown’’ line and will be facing a deep, balanced group of Devils forwards.
``He feels fine,’’ Kings coach Terry Murray said of Simmonds. ``It's a bruise. He's going to feel a little bit of soreness and stiffness, but it's not like there's a torn muscle or a groin strain or something like that, where there's further damage. It's just a matter of tolerating what's there, and playing.’’
Simmonds said he wasn’t too concerned that the injury, apparently caused by a hit from Dallas’ Matt Niskanen, would keep him out of the lineup.
``He just got me in the right place,’’ Simmonds said. ``As soon as he hit me, I just crumpled, but I've had some good treatment over the last couple days and I feel fine.’’
Per usual, Simmonds will play on a line with Michal Handzus
and Alexei Ponikarovsky
» Oct 30 vs. New Jersey (Coming Soon)
The Kings will go with the same lineup they used Thursday, with Jonathan Quick
in goal and rookies Kyle Clifford
, Brayden Schenn
and Kevin Westgarth
on the fourth line.
This could be an important game for Clifford and Schenn. The Kings are likely to decide, during the upcoming week, whether to keep one or both players or return them to their junior teams. That decision must be made before each player plays his 10th game.
Murray indicated he would be meeting with general manager Dean Lombardi soon in order to discuss the future of Clifford and Schenn.
``I don't have a plan, but I know it's going to happen real soon,’’ Murray said. ``Probably after this game. We've got several days of practice time ahead of us now, so it will, no question, be a conversation that we'll be having. Both kids have been pretty impressive.’’
GUESS WHO IS HERE?
The major NHL storyline of the summer centered around the courtship of Ilya Kovalchuk. The Kings made a long-term offer to Kovalchuk, who ultimately decided to sign with the Devils after a complicated process that lasted more than a month.
Kovalchuk has three goals and three assists in 10 games with the Devils, but Murray said he didn’t know what type of reaction Kovalchuk would get at STAPLES Center.
``I don't think anybody knows about it around here, quite honestly,’’ Murray said. ``A few of the players know. Brownie and Greener picked him up downtown and took him out to dinner one night, but that's the extent of it. I went out and had a cup of coffee with him -- I had to buy it -- so that was the extent of his time around here.
``He's a player on the New Jersey Devils. We have awareness to him. He's a great player. He has had an impact on a lot of games in his career, so we've just got to be ready to play against the New Jersey Devils tonight.’’