Kings News & Rumors: Doughty Skating Again, Vilardi, & More

In this edition of Los Angeles Kings News & Rumors, I’ll be discussing Drew Doughty’s return to the ice, Gabe Vilardi‘s return to the American Hockey League (AHL), and Sean Durzi getting reassigned to the AHL.

Doughty Back on the Ice

Last Friday, Kings defenseman Drew Doughty returned to the ice for the first time since his knee injury on Oct. 22. He participated in a red, non-contact jersey during the team’s Friday practice. This puts him well ahead of schedule, as this marked four weeks post-injury, two weeks ahead of the initial timetable of six weeks. It is yet to be seen how close he is to featuring in a game, but he shouldn’t be too far away if he’s already skating.

Drew Doughty Los Angeles Kings
Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Having Doughty return would be huge for the team, especially on the power play, where the team has severely struggled since his injury. They need to monitor him carefully, as he is a fierce competitor who has no problem playing hurt. He’s a player that you need to save from himself at times, as re-aggravating this injury would be devastating for the team. Coach Todd McLellan discussed this after the Friday practice:

“He got in the middle of a drill once, I don’t know what he was doing. He wasn’t supposed to be in that drill, so we have to manage him a little bit.”

Todd McLellan

It’s great to have this kind of mentality back in practice, especially for such a young team, but the Kings need to ensure Doughty is 100 percent healthy before allowing him to return.

Vilardi Makes AHL Season Debut

Most of the headlines surrounding the Kings last week were about former 11th overall pick Vilardi being sent down to the AHL. Sunday, he made his season debut in the team’s 4-2 loss against the Stockton Heat. Vilardi played wing on a line with Martin Frk and TJ Tynan in this game. He grabbed the team’s first goal and was overall impressive in his return.

Gabriel Vilardi LA Kings
Gabriel Vilardi, Los Angeles Kings (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Playing on a line with two of the league’s best players is exactly the situation I wanted to see Vilardi in. He’s given a chance to learn playing the wing in a first-line role instead of grinding it out in the bottom-six. Hopefully, after around 10 games, he has regained his confidence and can return to the Kings in an elevated role. The middle-six for the team has struggled recently, so adding a confident Vilardi could help add some offensive spark.

Durzi Sent Down

On Monday morning, it was revealed that defenseman Sean Durzi was heading back to the AHL. He was called up ahead of the team’s back-to-back weekend games but didn’t feature in either matchup. Many people, myself included, were disappointed not to see him get a chance over the weekend, as the team desperately needs someone who can provide offense from the back end. I discussed the team’s power-play struggles without Doughty earlier, and Durzi could help alleviate these issues.

Related: Kings’ Blue Line Thriving Despite Injuries to Doughty & Walker

This could easily be a simple paper transaction, and he could be back with the Kings on Wednesday, but he is available to play for the Ontario Reign Monday night. I’d be very disappointed if he remains in the AHL long-term, as I think he deserves a chance with the NHL roster. Kale Clague has done great since his call-up, and I think we could see a similar performance from Durzi. If nothing else, it’s worth trying something new and shaking up the blue line for a team that’s lost four games in a row now.

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