Jack Johnson will return to the Kings' lineup as they try for first-ever 5-0 trip
Defenseman Jack Johnson, who missed the Kings' victory Saturday at Boston because of a sore arm, skated today and is scheduled to play against the Devils tonight in the finale of the Kings' five-game trip.
According to research by the team's public relations staff, the Kings have never had a 5-0 trip. The club record for points in a five game trip is eight, which the team has matched by winning at Detroit, Toronto, Columbus and Boston.
A 5-0 trip would be an accomplishment. "Remarkable," Coach Terry Murray said. "This is a desperate time for a lot of the teams that we’ve played. Start off in Detroit, you’re moving through Toronto. A hard team desperate to get something going for themselves. Then you look at Columbus. My God, there’s an urgency there for them to get their game back on track the way they played last year, a playoff team last year.
"So it speaks a lot of what this team is starting to show as far as character and playing for your teammates. Remarkable stuff. I’m very proud of these guys the way they’ve come through this trip and played hard for each other."
Murray said Johnson was able to "get out and pass and shoot the puck and get a feel for it," in a morning skate. However, as a precaution, Murray will keep defenseman/forward Peter Harrold in the lineup and will take out forwards Raitis Ivanans and Brandon Segal. Harrold will play right wing initially but could move back to defense if Johnson falters.
Murray also said he was pleased with Wayne Simmonds' retaliation against Boston's Mark Stuart after Stuart leveled Anze Kopitar on Saturday with a hit that Murray acknowledged was clean. Instinctively sticking up for teammates, Murray said, is more important than waiting to decide whether a hit was good or shady. Simmonds got 19 penalty minutes, including an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for instigating a fight while wearing a face shield.
"Absolutely. That’s the culture that you have to have on your hockey club," Murray said when asked whether he approved of Simmonds' response.
"We talked about that many times through last year and the right stuff was done several different times and this was the right call on his part. I know there’s an instigator rule and because of the shield that makes it a little harder; it’s no question I loved the response."
The hit "was good. You’re hitting one of your best players. It’s an impact hit. It’s a hit that could injure a player," Murray said. "There was nothing wrong with it, but we’ve got to make sure we’re doing the right thing for our players."
He also said he had been planning to play backup goalie Erik Ersberg today but changed his mind after Jonathan Quick's strong performances at Columbus and Boston.
More later at www.latimes.com/sports.
-- Helene Elliott in Newark, N.J.