Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Kings: Rookies get their opportunity to shine
By Dan Arritt
EL SEGUNDO -- From minor leaguers to second liners, the last six days have presented one surprise after another for Jordan Nolan and Dwight King.
First, the roommates back in Manchester, N.H. woke up Friday morning to learn they’d been recalled by the Kings, who were playing against the Islanders the next day in Long Island, N.Y.
They tossed a few things in a bag, caught the next flight and arrived in time to practice with their new team that afternoon. That’s when they received the next bit of surprising news. They’d be skating on the same line as center Mike Richards, one of the league’s best playmakers.
“I was a little shocked,” said Nolan, who was making his NHL debut. “We didn’t know if we were going to play that game or whatnot. Coach [Darryl Sutter] called us in and told us we’d be teamed with Mike and that’s a pretty special feeling.”
The young wingers got their feet wet in the 2-1 overtime loss to the Islanders, playing well enough to get another shot Sunday in Dallas. That's when each scored their first NHL goals in the 4-2 victory against the Stars, completing a whirlwind weekend.
They flew back to Los Angeles with the team, checked into a extended-stay hotel down the street from the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo and went through their first practice Tuesday, still skating side by side with Richards.
Just when they thought the surprises were over, they learned one more. Richards was selected to be featured in the all-access series, NHL 36, which will follow him during the 36 hours leading up to Thursday’s game against the Phoenix Coyotes at Staples Center. The show is scheduled to be televised Feb. 22 on NBC Sports Network, before the broadcast of the Kings game in Colorado.
Bit parts for Nolan and King? Possibly for the documentary, but they're confident they can contribute plenty more to the Kings.
“Your first time, you’re nervous. You’re not sure exactly what your role is, what you can bring to a team,” said King, who played six games with the Kings last season. “But this time around, I’m confident in my game. I know what I can bring and how to be effective out there.”
Sutter is far from sold on their long-term future with the Kings, but at this point he’ll take anyone who can put the puck in the net and is willing to break a sweat. The Kings, the lowest-scoring team in the NHL but still seventh in the Western Conference, could soon have a backlog of forwards, leading to some type of roster move.
Jarret Stoll will be eligible to return from a minor hip ailment following the Phoenix game, and Dustin Penner could still emerge from Sutter’s doghouse and earn back his job on the second line. Penner, the team’s fourth-highest paid player, was a healthy scratch the last two games after another poor effort last week against the Florida Panthers.
Then there’s Simon Gagne, who has been out for seven weeks with a head injury but has recently been sighted skating on his own at the El Segundo practice facility. Gagne has had multiple concussions, however, and Kings general manager Dean Lombardi said Tuesday they aren’t counting on him to come back this season.
Those decisions are for another day, however. For now, it appears Nolan and King will have one more shot to impress coaches and management.
Who knows, maybe another surprise is in the works.