Simmonds in for Kings on Saturday night; Murray muses about Kovalchuk
First, a few nuts and bolts:
Right wing Wayne Simmonds, who missed most of the third period of the Kings’ game at Dallas on Thursday because of what the team called a lower-body injury, will play against the New Jersey Devils Saturday night at Staples Center.
“Nothing’s broken. It’s all good,” he said after the team’s morning skate at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo.
With Simmonds in, Coach Terry Murray said the lineup will be the same as it was in Dallas. That means Andrei Loktionov and Trevor Lewis will be out of the lineup as the spare forwards and Peter Harrold will be out of the defense corps while Jake Muzzin plays.
Murray said Simmonds’ injury was minor. “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,” Murray said. “It’s just a matter of tolerating what’s there and playing.”
Also, defenseman Drew Doughty, who Saturday will miss his sixth straight game because of a concussion, skated after most of his teammates had left the ice. After Saturday the Kings don’t play again until Thursday, so he will get a few more days to be sure his symptoms have faded.
Doughty was unleashing some blistering slap shots Saturday morning and skating well, but he still must undergo baseline tests to measure his neurological responses. If those test results are satisfactory he would be cleared to return.
OK, now to the elephant in the living room: Ilya Kovalchuk.
The last time the high-scoring left winger was seen around here, he was a free agent and was being wooed by the Kings. He visited Southern California in late July and was shown around the practice facility -- and discussed an offer from the Kings that would have paid him $80 million over 15 years.
“I went out and had a coffee with him. I had to buy it,” Murray said.
Kovalchuk said no to the Kings — maybe Murray wasn’t willing to spring for a venti — and instead took a 17-year, $102-million offer from the Devils. That contract was rejected by the league and restructured to $100 million over 15 years.
In any case, the Kings didn’t land the big scorer they wanted ... and yes, Murray did allow himself to imagine what it might have been like to have the two-time 50-goal scorer in a Kings uniform.
“Oh, sure I did. And I’ve had those guys,” he said. “I’ve had Pavel Bure put  goals up for me in Florida. I had [Eric] Lindros in Philly who’s an MVP of the league. I’ve had these players that are impact players and they’re nice to have. And if they’re all on page and playing the right way and playing the team game then it’s outstanding to have those guys because they do determine your season and your playoffs. They make a difference all the way through.
“I would love to have had Kovalchuk. I’m not going to kid anybody. He’s a great player. And it just didn’t work out that way. He’s a member of the Devils and we’re playing them tonight and we’ve got to play hard against that team.”
We’ll have more later about Kovalchuk and about the festivities planned by the Kings to honor former team captain Mattias Norstrom. The opening faceoff will be delayed to 7:56 p.m. PDT.
-- Helene Elliott