In this edition of Los Angeles Kings news & rumors, I’ll be discussing the imminent return of Drew Doughty, Andreas Athanasiou on the COVID protocol list, and the postponement of the Ontario Reign games this weekend.
Doughty Will Return Soon
Last week Kings fans got some great news, as star defenseman Drew Doughty returned to practice two weeks ahead of schedule. The good news surrounding Doughty continues to roll on, as he’s expected to return no later than Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks. He might even be available for Saturday’s game against the Ottawa Senators.
This is great news for a Kings team that has been struggling recently, having lost their last five games. Adding their best defenseman and time-on-ice leader back into the lineup will be an absolute game-changer. It will be interesting to see what they do with the pairings when Doughty returns — I imagine it will be Olli Maatta, Sean Durzi, and Kale Clague fighting for one spot. If the team plans on reuniting Doughty with Mikey Anderson, that also complicates things, as it fills all three left-shot defensemen spots. The fight would then be more between Durzi and Clague, although I think the fight should be between them, too, regardless.
It’s hard to decide who deserves the last spot in the lineup between Durzi and Clague. Durzi had a fantastic debut against the Toronto Maple Leafs, but that’s just one game. Being a more natural right-side defenseman also bodes well for Durzi. Clague started well after being called up but has really struggled recently and was scratched in favor of Durzi last Wednesday. Durzi is also more effective on the power play than Clague, giving him another leg up. Regardless, the team’s blue line will see much improvement with Doughty returning, and we should see Matt Roy play fewer minutes moving forward, something I think will help Roy’s game.
Athansiou Enters COVID Protocol
Just before Wednesday’s game against the Maple Leafs, Athanasiou would be unable to play in the game, as he is in COVID-19 protocol. The team has not announced whether he tested positive for COVID, but I would expect him to miss the next few games no matter what. This is a tough blow for him, having already missed the first 10 games of the season due to a hand injury. He seemingly can’t catch a break this season with health, having only played in eight of the team’s 19 games so far this season.
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The team will also have to find a replacement for him on the second line; Dustin Brown filled this spot Wednesday but did very little to impress. Coach Todd McLellan shook up the lines for the third period of the Leafs game, giving Arthur Kaliyev a shot on the second line. It appears that Kaliyev will not retain this spot in the lineup for Saturday’s game, as Viktor Arvidsson is in Athanasiou’s spot, and Brown is back on the first line. I think Arvidsson in that spot is a great move, but I’m less ecstatic about Brown being back on the top line. I’d rather see one of the young players get a chance over Brown, but we’ll see how this top-six performs on Saturday.
Athanasiou started out hot after returning from injury, grabbing five points in his first four games. But he quickly cooled off, with zero points in his next four. He has always been a streaky scorer, though, so I don’t think this trend was too surprising. He played well, so someone would have to seriously impress if he was to lose his spot on the second line when he returns.
Reign’s Weekend Games Postponed
The Reign were supposed to play two games against the Bakersfield Condors and San Jose Barracuda this weekend, but both games have now been postponed. Kings insider John Hoven reported Friday morning that there were some ice maintenance issues at Toyota Arena and that postponing at least Friday’s game seemed likely. Soon after this report, the Reign’s Twitter account confirmed the postponement of both games this weekend due to ice maintenance issues.
The games will be replayed at a later date, not yet confirmed, but the Reign will have the weekend off. While this isn’t a huge deal, I’m sure some players who’re hoping to make a push back onto the NHL roster soon aren’t happy. Specifically, Gabe Vilardi and Vladimir Tkachev. The Reign will be back in action on Tuesday to face the Abbotsford Canucks.
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My name is Austin Stanovich, as a lifelong player and fan I’m hoping to bring my own unique perspective on the hockey world, specifically covering the Los Angeles Kings. As a SoCal native I grew up a Kings fan, and after graduating from Long Beach State in 2020 I’ve joined The Hockey Writers crew as a columnist for the Kings.