Like many teams in the league, the Los Angeles Kings have battled their fair share of injuries. Star sniper Marian Gaborik has appeared in just nine games this season and has posted just one goal and four points. Anze Kopitar, one of the league’s top, two-way centers has missed some time. And perhaps most importantly, Jonathan Quick has been out since season’s first game, forcing the team to rely on a combination of Jeff Zatkoff and Peter Budaj to hold down the fort until he returns. It’s not an ideal situation but the Kings have hung tough in the standings, as Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times writes, and currently hold one of two wild card slots in the Western Conference.
Because of injuries to Zatkoff, it’s been Budaj that has seen most of the action between the pipes for L.A. Originally signed to be the team’s third goalie, Budaj has posted a career-best 2.17 GAA while winning 14 of his 26 starts. While he’s had his ups and downs, Budaj has been good enough most nights to keep the Kings in games.
As Elliott notes, the team has managed to stay afloat thanks in large part to their work ethic. Now, the Kings are close to full health, though Quick is still expected to be out until February, and are just five points behind the San Jose Sharks for first place in the Pacific Division with one game in hand. Assuming Budaj can continue to play adequately enough, or the team finds a better stopgap option, and Gaborik can rediscover his scoring touch, the Kings have a good chance to again qualify for the postseason. Once there, anything can happen.
Elsewhere in the Pacific Division:
- Highly-touted rookie Timo Meier made his debut with the San Jose Sharks last season and by all accounts it was a huge success, as Curtis Pashelka of the Mercury News recounts. Meier scored his first career NHL goal on his first shot last night and the Sharks erupted for three goals in the first period of their 4 – 2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens. Meier would finish with three shots on net in just more than 10 minutes of ice time. That’s exactly the type of spark the Sharks were hoping for when calling up the 2015 first-round draft pick. Meier’s insertion into the lineup pushed veteran forward Joel Ward to the press box last night and while it’s certain the first-year pro will remain in the San Jose lineup for the immediate future, it’s less clear how that fact will impact the rest of the Sharks forward group. As long as Meier produces, DeBoer will undoubtedly find a way to mix and match his forwards.
- Desperate for help up the middle, the Arizona Coyotes recently acquired Peter Holland via trade from Toronto and added Josh Jooris off of waivers from the New York Rangers. Veteran center Brad Richardson is out indefinitely with multiple fractures in his right leg while rookie Dylan Strome failed to find consistency at the NHL level; two factors which created a need for Arizona. While it’s only a small sample, just two appearances for each player, the additions are already paying off for Arizona, writes Sarah McLellan of The Arizona Republic. Holland tallied two helpers in his Coyotes debut and scored the shootout winner in his return to Toronto. Again, it’s only to games but Holland’s play has helped the team to their first winning streak since late November; a stretch which saw the Coyotes earn just five of a possible 16 standings points.