The Los Angeles Kings will take on the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday afternoon in the first game of their annual Grammy Trip, a span of road games away from the Staples Center while their home arena hosts the annual music awards show.
However, the Kings being pushed out of their home rink in order to make room for the music industry’s top performers is nothing new. In fact, they have made room for the Grammys 16 times since 2000. No, making room for the award show isn’t news, it’s who traveled with the team on the trip that is important.
Forward Tyler Toffoli and goalie Jonathan Quick made the trek east with the Kings for their four-game trip on the east coast. A notable change in the status for two of the Kings’ biggest stars.
Toffoli hasn’t skated in a game since he suffered a lower-body injury against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Dec. 20. LA Kings Insider reported on when the winger might make his return:
He’s close, and a return to the lineup this weekend in Philadelphia on Saturday or Washington on Sunday doesn’t appear to be out of the question.
For a Kings team that has struggled to consistently generate offense this season and has averaged more goals per game than only eight other teams, Toffoli’s return could serve as a nice jolt. The 23-year-old accounted for 56 goals and 107 points in 158 games over the course of the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons. In the 32 games he played before he was injured, Toffoli recorded eight goals, 20 points and a plus-14 rating.
For Quick, well, his return has taken a little longer than Toffoli. The goalie suffered a groin injury in the opening period of the Kings’ season and he hasn’t seen game action, or much ice, since. The timetable for the goalie’s return was never set in stone but the Kings saw improvement this week.
Earlier this week, skated in full gear and practiced with his teammates for the first time. That’s not to say the two-time Vezina Trophy nominee will be making his valiant return in the near future, but getting him back on the ice has to relieve some pressure. Again, LAKI had more on Quick’s status:
He’s traveling with the team to the east coast but isn’t going to play in the games against Philadelphia, Washington, Tampa Bay or Florida. Instead, he’ll be around his teammates, he’ll skate in full gear and he’ll continue to receive treatment and evaluation as he looks to return at some time in the coming weeks.
The Kings have received exceptional goaltending from Peter Budaj who has stepped into the starting role in Quick’s absence. Budaj’s six shutouts are tied for first place in the league, and his 2.01 goals against average is third best among goalies who have played 20 or more games. Budaj’s play has put the Kings in a good spot so they can take their time with Quick’s recovery process and make sure he’s 100%.
For the Kings, getting Toffoli and Quick back could be a catalyst for a team that is in the midst of a critical stretch in terms of their playoff chances.
Los Angeles is in the Western Conference’s first wild-card spot with a one-point lead on the St. Louis Blues. Looking ahead of the Kings, there is an eight-point gap between them and the Edmonton Oilers who are third in the Pacific Division, though the Kings have two games in hand.
If the LA manages to hold onto their playoff spot or even make a run at one of the Pacific Division’s top three spots, a Toffoli return in the next couple days or a Quick return down the road could be what pushes Los Angeles down this final stretch of the regular season.