EL SEGUNDO — Of all the Kings who are rebounding from injuries last season, forwards Scott Parse and Trent Hunter are receiving the most attention during the early stages of training camp.
Parse, 27, underwent hip surgery last November, was rushed back into action after the Kings went down, 3-1, in the best-of-seven first-round playoff series against San Jose, but clearly lacked a jump in his step. He disappeared into the locker room midway through Game 6 and never returned.
“You could see last year he still had a hitch in his skate,” said Kings general manager Dean Lombardi.
When Parse is healthy, Lombardi said, he's one of the three most skilled offensive players on the team. In the five regular-season games in which he suited up last season, Parse contributed a goal and three assists.
Those flashes are why the Kings are so interested in his recovery. How he responds during the early part of training camp should help determine where he’ll fit in on a team that’s stacked with talented forwards.
“That’s what we have to find out,” said Kings coach Terry Murray. “Last year, I was hoping for a big year from him, on the offensive part of it. That’s clearly what he brings to us, a nice touch around the net. He’s very creative below the hash marks in the offensive zone.”
As insurance in case Parse has any setbacks, the Kings brought in the 31-year-old Hunter on a pro tryout. Hunter, originally drafted by the Ducks in 1998, has had success in the past.
As a rookie with the New York Islanders in 2003-04, he tied for the team lead in goals (25) and points (61). That season, he also finished third in voting for the Calder Trophy, awarded to the best first-year player in the NHL.
He's regularly among the league leaders in hits, and scored 20 goals as recently as the 2005-06 season.
But Hunter has been dogged by injuries the last three seasons, most recently a torn MCL in his left knee in late November. He attempted to rehabilitate the injury without surgery but ultimately went under the knife in February.
Hunter was traded to New Jersey for Brian Rolston last July as part of a salary-dumping move by the Devils, placed on waivers four days later and then bought out of the final two years of his contract.
Murray says he plans to give Hunter a long look during upcoming exhibition games.
“If his game is on track, maybe he cracks the lineup here,” Murray said. “There’s other teams watching all the time, and it’s good for his career to get the exposure.”