Kings adjust after injuries to Mitchell, Ponikarovsky
The Kings will place defenseman Willie Mitchell (fractured left wrist) on injured reserve and recall defenseman Jake Muzzin from Manchester of the American Hockey League Tuesday [Updated 2:55 p.m. the Kings made this official]. Left wing Alexei Ponikarovsky (fractured finger) wasn’t placed on IR but that could still happen before their next game, against Dallas on Thursday at Staples Center.
Muzzin was due to arrive in Los Angeles Tuesday night, meaning the Kings had only six defensemen in a lengthy practice session in El Segundo. The pairings were Rob Scuderi-Drew Doughty, Davis Drewiske-Matt Greene, and Jack Johnson-Peter Harrold. Coach Terry Murray said he’d look at the pairings again Wednesday, after Muzzin practices with the team.
Mitchell is expected to be out four to six weeks. Ponikarovsky is projected to miss four weeks’ time. Both were injured during the Kings’ 4-1 victory over Nashville on Saturday, their fourth straight victory and fifth in six games.
“We’re losing two veteran guys who have been in the league for a while and two of the older guys, I guess, on this team,” Doughty said. “It definitely [stinks] to lose them but I know we’re fully confident here that the guys who are going to replace Mitchy and Poni are going to do their jobs just as good as they were.
“We have no doubts we’re going to continue on this roll.”
Doughty also said he welcomes the reunion with Scuderi, who was his partner much of last season. “I thought last year we were really, really good together,” he said. “We were great at shutting down the other team’s offense, and together we know where we’re going to be. In a way I’m going to really miss playing with Mitchy but I’m happy to play with Scuds as well.”
Translations for the uninitiated: Mitchy is Mitchell, Scuds is Scuderi, Poni is Ponikarovsky. Doughty is usually called “Dewey.” There’s also Greener and Quickie and a host of other nicknames, but we’ll get into that another time.
Brad Richardson took Ponikarovsky’s place on the third line, with Michal Handzus and Wayne Simmonds but Murray said he hadn’t decided who will play on the fourth line. But he said he plans to play Kyle Clifford. (It would be the rugged left wing’s 10th game and would trigger the first year of his entry-level contract.) Clifford, 19, could still be sent back to his junior team after that but a year would be clocked off his contract.
“You make adjustments. It’s a competitive game and when you play hard stuff happens in a game,” said Murray, who had his full team for only two games before Mitchell and Ponikarovsky were hurt. “Injuries happen.”
He also said he’s debating whether to use Brayden Schenn or Trevor Lewis at center on the fourth line. Schenn has played eight games and is in the same position as Clifford as far as playing 10 games. If Schenn stays under the 10-game limit he can go back to juniors without activating the first year of his contract.
Murray said he and General Manager Dean Lombardi would likely discuss Schenn and Clifford Tuesday night, after Lombardi’s scheduled return from general managers’ meetings in Toronto.
More later at www.latimes.com/sports.
-- Helene Elliott