Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell controls the puck along the boards against… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)
It is not a 100% return to health — not that any NHL team is ever completely without issues — but the Kings are inching toward that elusive goal.
On hand Friday in practice for Saturday's game at Nashville were defenseman Willie Mitchell and goalie Jonathan Quick. It is the first trip Quick has taken with his teammates since he suffered a strained groin at Buffalo on Nov. 12. Mitchell suffered an upper-body injury at Ottawa on the Kings' last trip.
Quick's presence is a definite sign of progress, considering Coach Darryl Sutter had indicated recently he did not think Quick would make this trip. General Manager Dean Lombardi said before the holiday break that Quick might be able to return the first week of January.
But timetables are fluid and the Kings continue to take the conservative approach with Quick's injury. They have been afforded that luxury with not one but two goalies — rookie Martin Jones and Ben Scrivens — playing at the top of their games.
Now with the much-needed Christmas mini-break ending for the Kings, there will be fresh items on their to-do list, involving the settling of recent scores.
Saturday's game is the first of a four-game trip, and the second and third stops — Chicago on Monday, Dallas on Tuesday — represent sterner challenges, and chances to avenge recent losses.
Since Quick was injured, the Kings have suffered only three losses in regulation. One was at Chicago on Dec. 15, the other against Dallas on Monday.
The Kings were greatly outplayed by the Blackhawks, and in the 5-2 loss to the Stars they looked like a team running on fumes, with one eye fixed on the holiday calendar. Jones suffered the first loss of his young NHL career, giving up goals on the Stars' first two shots.
He had won his first eight starts, tying the modern-day record of Bob Froese, who did it in the 1982-83 season with the Philadelphia Flyers.
When: 5 PDT.
On the air: TV: FS West; Radio: 1150.
Etc.: The Kings were in town before the Predators. Nashville played at Dallas on Friday night, attempting to stop a four-game losing streak.