The Kings welcomed an important forward tonight against Anaheim as Zach Dooley of LA Kings Insider relays that forward Gabriel Vilardi was cleared to return to the lineup. The 23-year-old missed a little more than a month due to an upper-body injury but before that, he was in the midst of a breakout season as he has 17 goals and 14 assists in 45 games heading into tonight’s action. Those numbers already represent career-highs. While he was drafted as a center, Vilardi has been a regular on the wing for the last couple of seasons and with Los Angeles having plenty of young depth down the middle, there’s a good chance he won’t be going back to his natural position.
Elsewhere around the NHL:
- Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan told reporters today (video link) prior to tonight’s game that goaltender Tristan Jarry skated today and that they haven’t ruled out the possibility of him returning on Saturday against New Jersey. Jarry has missed the last three weeks due to an upper-body injury and had been playing quite well up to that point, posting a career-high .921 SV% in his first 27 starts of the season. Pittsburgh is in a very tight battle for a Wild Card spot and welcoming their starting goalie back would go a long way toward helping their chances for the stretch run.
- Long-time Senators winger Chris Neil had his #25 retired by the team on Friday night but Postmedia’s Bruce Garrioch relays that the 15-year player nearly signed with rival Toronto back in 2009. The Maple Leafs made the high-money offer to Neil who, at the time, was coming off a down season but he opted to take a little less to stay with Ottawa. In the end, he suited up for more than 1,000 games with the Sens, recording more than 2,500 penalty minutes.
- While Panthers forward Sam Bennett is doing “much better” according to head coach Paul Maurice, team reporter Jameson Olive relays (Twitter link) that he still might not be ready to return for their next game on Saturday against Nashville. The 26-year-old left Tuesday’s game with an undisclosed injury and didn’t play in Thursday’s victory over Washington. Bennett has 14 goals and 21 assists in 56 games so far, good for sixth on Florida in scoring.