Although the Kings are riding a five-game winning streak in the post-season, the last couple of victories have been costly ones for coach Darryl Sutter. Long known as one of the better defensive teams in the NHL, Los Angeles lost Willie Mitchell in Game 6 of the opening round vs. San Jose and then lost Robyn Regehr in Game 1 vs. the Ducks on Saturday night.
It’s the playoffs, so getting specific injury information out of professional hockey teams is more difficult than determining the winning lottery numbers or getting trade secrets out of Russian officials.
That said, Sutter has indicated that Mitchell likely won’t be available anytime soon. The veteran defenseman didn’t travel with the team for Game 1 – which is a telling sign. Further, Sutter didn’t sound optimistic that Mitchell would be ready soon when asked about his status after the Game 7 morning skate in San Jose on Wednesday.
As for Regehr, he was apparently injured during the first period of Game 1 in Anaheim on Saturday night. Teemu Selanne hit him with 10:34 remaining in the period and he never played again.
You may also recall, Regehr was banged up a bit in the final weeks of the regular season – although there’s no word if the latest injury is related to what was plaguing him last month. Of course, Mitchell missed all of last season with a knee injury that at one point was thought to possibly be career ending.
Where do the Kings turn from here? There are three possible answers, with only one as the most probable.
Jeff Schultz, a left shot who has 399 games of NHL experience with the Washington Capitals (2006-2013), and was signed by GM Dean Lombardi last summer (in part as an insurance policy against Mitchell not being able to return this year), is already with the club after spending most of the season playing significant minutes for the Manchester Monarchs. During his AHL stint he had 13 points (two goals, 11 assists) and a plus-10 rating in 67 games. The Calgary native is 28-years-old and stands 6-foot-6. He’s the prototypical Sutter player.
Now that the Monarchs have been eliminated from the playoffs, several of the Kings prospects are headed to Los Angeles to form a group of Black Aces. Among those on their way are defensemen Andrew Campbell and Brayden McNabb.
Campbell was originally drafted by the Kings in 2008 and made his NHL debut last month, suiting up for three games. Listed at 6-foot-4 and 206 lbs, Campbell was the Monarchs captain this year, playing in 69 games and recording 16 points (three goals, 13 assists) and a plus-16 rating.
McNabb (pictured above) was acquired by the Kings in a deal first reported by MayorsManor back in March. According to our sources, Lombardi and his staff had him rated as the best defenseman not in the NHL over the past two years. How bad did they want him? They were willing to trade two of their top 10 prospects to get him from the Buffalo Sabres.
For more on McNabb, read his MayorsManor interview here and get thoughts from Lombardi here, where he expands on his “He’s got size, he can move the puck, he’s got a long reach” comments. No doubt, McNabb will be in the line-up come opening night next season. That’s a given.
What about Monday though against the Ducks?
As much as Kings executives love McNabb, would Sutter trust the 23-year-old blueliner with only 37 games of NHL experience, to jump into the Kings rotation during the second round of the playoffs? From what we hear, that is at least being discussed. And with the Kings having a 1-0 lead in the series, maybe (MAYBE!) they would take the risk of playing him.
Keep in mind that Schultz at least has the experience of going through training camp with the Kings back in September and he’s participated in practices with Sutter during a few call-ups this season. McNabb is arriving in LA completely blind in that sense, having been in the Sabres organization since leaving junior hockey in 2011.
In the end, we expect Schultz to get the call for Game 2. He has the experience Sutter will most likely want to lean on.
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