The Los Angeles Kings’ defense might be in a solid state going into the season after all.
They suffered a scare on Sunday when blueliners Jake Muzzin and Matt Greene suffered upper-body injuries, but while the Kings didn’t initially provide much in the way of information about their status, the latest news about Muzzin has been encouraging.
He has missed four straight practices, but Muzzin did skate on Thursday and expected to be available for the Kings’ season opener on Oct. 7. Getting him back is very important for the Kings as he often plays alongside Drew Doughty and provided them with an average of 22:41 minutes per game last season.
Greene’s situation is murkier though. He hasn’t participated in a practice since the injury either, but his absence is more problematic because he had already missed part of training camp due to an illness. In total, Greene has been limited to 10 minutes of preseason ice time, so he might not be able to recover and get back into game shape before the season opener.
If Greene is unavailable, it would be a setback for the Kings, but a more modest one as he played in a limited role last season.
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If training camp for young players is all about standing out, then Vancouver’s Jake Virtanen certainly accomplished that late in the second period of tonight’s game, albeit in a scary way.
Virtanen was in front of Edmonton Oilers goalie Cam Talbot while the Canucks worked to take advantage of a power-play opportunity. Yannick Weber fired a shot towards the net, but it struck Virtanen in the face. Virtanen went down as the deflected puck went over Talbot’s shoulder.
Virtanen left the ice after that incident, although he waved to the crowd as he did so, earning a round of applause from the crowd in Edmonton, per the Vancouver Province’s Jason Botchford. He was able to return to return for the third period.
He also earned an assist earlier in the game. The 19-year-old forward, who was taken with the sixth overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, is in the running for a roster spot.
Kucherov doesn’t complete game due to lower-body injury (Updated)
Forward Nikita Kucherov showed why Tampa Bay values him when he scored during his first shift of tonight’s game against the Dallas Stars, but whether or not Lightning fans will get to see him in the season opener on Oct. 8 is now in question.
Roughly five minutes after that goal, Kucherov absorbed a hard hit by Remi Elie. Kucherov sustained a lower-body injury, which caused him to miss the remainder of the game, per the Tampa Bay Times.
The good news is that Kucherov was able to skate off the ice on his own. He also returned midway through the first period to test the ice during a timeout, although the fact that he didn’t take another shift even after that suggests the results of that test were less than great.
“He won’t start the season,” Trotz said, per the Washington Post. “I know that for sure. I wouldn’t think that’d he’d play through those first four games.”
In other words, Backstrom isn’t expected to participate in Washington’s opening homestand, but he hasn’t been ruled out for the Capitals’ first road game on Oct. 20 in Calgary.
Of course, there’s no guarantee that he’ll be able to play against the Flames, but at this point Trotz would term a return at the start of November as the “worst-case scenario.” Washington plays 10 games in October.
Backstrom had arthroscopic hip surgery in May and previously stated that he’s not returning until he’s 100 percent.
While he’s gone, Evgeny Kuznetsov is projected to play alongside Alex Ovechkin on the top line while Andre Burakovsky will center the second unit. His health might also influence how the Capitals handle Derek Roy, who has been attending their camp on a tryout basis.