Kings forward Jeff Carter, who has missed nine games because of a lower body… (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images )
Injured forwards Jeff Carter and Kyle Clifford both skated with the full Kings team in practice Friday, the first time they've been on the ice together with their teammates in more than three weeks.
And while Coach Darryl Sutter cautioned that neither was expected to play Saturday against Colorado, he said they're both getting closer to returning.
"It's day to day now," Sutter said. "It's not week to week."
Carter, who has missed nine games with a lower-body injury, said the down time has been easier to deal with because the team won six games in his absence.
"When things aren't going well and you're sitting out and whatnot, it makes it tough," he said. "We've had a lot of injuries lately, so they've done a great job rallying around and it's made it easy."
Clifford has missed six games with an upper-body injury, joining goalie Jonathan Quick (groin strain) and defenseman Matt Greene (upper body) on the sidelines. That's forced the Kings to call up four players from their American Hockey League team in Manchester, N.H., which, Sutter said, can sometimes be a good thing.
"I like having them all around because most of them are sponges," he said. "It's good for them to see it and learn it.
"It would be different if you know you don't have a strong leadership group or if I didn't trust them or something like that. It would be different. It's not the playing part. It's the experience part for them."
Frattin earning time
Winger Matt Frattin missed practice Friday, excused for what Sutter called "maintenance." But Frattin's absence could just as well have been blamed on exhaustion after he skated a season-high 17 minutes and 31 seconds in Thursday's loss.
And he made the most of that time, turning in a gritty performance in which he drew three penalties and blocked a team-high four shots.
"He's supposed to produce. If he doesn't, so what?" Sutter said. "His ice time has went from not dressed to eight minutes [to] 17 minutes, based on performance. We're not babying guys. They've got to perform. And if they're banged up, even more so."
Frattin has definitely been banged up, playing Thursday with a full face shield and added jaw protection after needing 14 stitches to close a wound sustained when Tampa Bay's Pierre-Cedric Labrie sliced him with a stick earlier in the week.
"Based on how he played [Thursday], he should get hit in the mouth every game," Sutter joked.
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Etc.: The Avalanche skate into Staples Center leading the NHL with 16 wins, and they've done that by starting games quickly, having allowed a league-low nine goals in the first period. …The Kings failed to score in four power-play opportunities in their overtime loss to New Jersey on Thursday, ending a nine-game streak in which they had scored on nearly 25% of their chances with a man advantage.