Notes from the Kings' and Ducks' morning skates
The Kings and Ducks usually seem to be going in opposite directions. When one is playing well, the other is lagging — and they have yet to make the playoffs in the same season.
But Monday’s first meeting of the season catches them at a time when each is slumping. Both had six-game winning streaks and then fell into a stretch of losing six out of seven. Those slides dumped both out of the top eight in the West, with the Kings ranked ninth and the Ducks 11th before Monday’s game at the Honda Center.
Only one point separated them — the Kings had 26 to the Ducks’ 25 — but the Ducks had played three more games. The Ducks were only seven points behind the West-leading Detroit Red Wings.
“It’s weird,” Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf said of the teams’ turnarounds. “When you play in a league and a conference like we do, everybody is so tight, and it’s that one bounce here or there. If you’re not willing to work for that extra step every night, you’re going to lose it.
“We went through a stretch where the bounces were going our way. Everything was going our way. And you can’t win like that forever, but you need to more consistently win a couple and maybe lose one, but you can’t go on those streaks like we did.”
For the Ducks, right wing Teemu Selanne is expected to return after missing three games because of a groin strain. However, defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky — one of four ex-Kings now on the Ducks’ roster, along with Andreas Lilja, Jason Blake and George Parros — said he’s not sure if he can play. “I’m 50-50. We will see,” he said after the Ducks’ morning skate.
The Kings had a new/old face at their morning skate. Forward John Zeiler, who cleared recall waivers at 9 a.m. and was officially recalled from Ontario of the ECHL, was centering for Brad Richardson and a broken-beaked Kevin Westgarth. Zeiler is expected to play Monday, and Dwight King — completing a rapid descent from first line to fourth line to left out — won’t be in uniform.
Coach Terry Murray said the other lines will remain the same, including a second game for Dustin Brown on the left wing with Anze Kopitar and Wayne Simmonds on the top line. The defense pairs — Jack Johnson-Rob Scuderi, Alec Martinez-Drew Doughty, and Davis Drewiske-Matt Greene — will remain the same, with Peter Harrold not in uniform.
Murray said he saw Zeiler play center at Manchester of the American Hockey League late last season and knew Zeiler had still been there this season. “He feels pretty comfortable there," Murray said, "so that’s the look I’ll give him tonight.”
Zeiler played 22 games for Manchester this season and had five assists and 46 penalty minutes. So he’s not going to increase the team’s quotient of pure skill.
His instructions, he said, were straightforward.
“Just play the same way I’ve always played, keep it simple, get pucks deep, just play the body, finishing every check,” he said. “Logging some play down low in their defensive zone. Tire teams out. Just play solid. Keep it simple, make the smart play, just bring some energy to the team.”
Zeiler, 28, said being cut so late in camp was “bittersweet, obviously. You felt like you had a great camp. I felt like I could have been one of the guys that stayed, but that’s just the way the game goes. It’s a business, and it didn’t stop me from going down to Manchester and just working hard. There’s always someone watching you play.”
One other note: Brayden Schenn’s two-week conditioning assignment to Manchester has ended, and he was scheduled to return to Los Angeles on Monday and join the team for practice Tuesday. He had three goals and seven points in seven games with the Monarchs.
Schenn has played eight games with the Kings this season and can play one more before the first year of his pro contract would kick in. Murray said he will sit with General Manager Dean Lombardi and assistant GM Ron Hextall to determine whether they’ll keep the 19-year-old center or return him to his Western Hockey League junior team.
But even though the Kings are struggling offensively, Murray said he won’t consider using Schenn at left wing on the top line, a spot that has been filled by seven players so far this season.
“I’ve never seen him play other than in the middle,” Murray said. “I’ve seen him at a couple of training camps only in the middle of the ice and a couple of games this year. That’s where he was drafted. He’s a high draft pick playing as a center iceman. He was one of the leading scorers in the WHL as a center iceman and a key guy going into the Memorial Cup, so I can’t visualize him playing out of position right now.”
More from me and baseball-writer-turned-hockey-scribe Mike DiGiovanna later at latimes.com/sports.
-- Helene Elliott