Some of the re-shuffling caused by injuries to Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell and left wing Alexei Ponikarovsky were set in motion Tuesday.
Jake Muzzin was recalled from Manchester to take the roster spot of Mitchell, who is out four to six weeks because of a fractured left wrist. Rob Scuderi will fill Mitchell’s spot as Drew Doughty's partner on the top defensive pairing.
Doughty said he’s comfortable playing alongside Scuderi.
“I played with Scuds a lot last year,” Doughty said. “I know where to be when he’s getting the puck and he knows where I’m going to be. Whereas Mitchie, I haven’t played as many games with him. We were playing really well together, but we still weren’t totally comfortable with each other.”
Kings coach Terry Murray said a decision has not been made regarding a roster replacement for Ponikarovsky, who is out approximately four weeks because of a broken finger.
Ponikarovsky continued to play after suffering the injury in the first period Saturday night during a 4-1 victory against visiting Nashville. Mitchell was injured in the second period and did not return.
Brad Richardson will move into Ponikarovsky’s left wing spot on the third line. Richardson has bounced around from the fourth to the first line this season, and Murray said his versatility is a big asset.
“It’s invaluable to have a player like Richardson who can adjust,” Murray said. “Utility players are truly invaluable to have as a coach. It might be hard for a player to feel that important when he is moving around … but let me assure you, I do tell the player their role on the team is very important.”
Richardson said he’s happy to contribute in any way.
“I feel comfortable at all three of the forward positions, so I guess that means they can put me anywhere,” he said.
Judgment day looming for Clifford, Schenn
The other big decision that must be made before Thursday is what to do with Kyle Clifford, and soon after, Brayden Schenn.
Both are too young to play at the AHL level, so the 19-year-olds must be returned to their junior teams before their 10th NHL appearance, or the Kings will be on the hook for their NHL contracts this season, regardless if they remain with the club. Clifford has appeared in nine games and Schenn eight.
Though no decision has been made, Murray has Clifford penciled in to play on the fourth line Thursday against visiting Dallas. In the meantime, Murray plans to have another discussion with general manager Dean Lombardi, who is expected to return from Toronto this evening.
“We’ll gather tomorrow and discuss this, but that’s the look I’m going to go with,” he said.
Clifford had a discussion with Lombardi following Friday’s practice, but said the topic had more to do with fittiing in with the character of the Kings.
“I’m not going to get my hopes up until it’s set in stone," he said. "Im just staying grounded and doing what I do out there."