After missing six games with a concussion, Kings defenseman Drew Doughty is officially back in the lineup for Thursday night’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Staples Center, bringing his potent slap shot, intimidating blue-line presence and a subtle equipment addition.
Doughty said after practice Wednesday that he’ll start wearing a mouthpiece during games, hoping to prevent the type of injury that sidelined him since Oct. 20 against Carolina.
“I haven’t been a fan of the mouth guard but maybe I should be,” he said. “I wish I wouldn’t be so stubborn.”
Doughty, a finalist last season for the Norris Trophy, which is awarded to the league’s best defensemen, had six front teeth knocked out early last season when he was struck by a puck against St. Louis, but even that didn’t convince him to start wearing a mouthpiece. Missing two weeks with a head injury is a different story.
“I have to get used to it,” said Doughty, who will be paired again with Willie Mitchell.
Here’s what else Doughty had to say following practice.
Johnson earns praise
Kings coach Terry Murray gave up verbal pat on the back to defenseman Jack Johnson, who stepped up in Doughty’s absence and helped the Kings to a 4-2 record during that span. Johnson recorded seven of his eight assists while Doughty was out and was a force in the defensive zone.
“I thought Jack Johnson took charge of the blue line and showed that he’s going to be a pretty good player in this league,” Murray said.
Parse returns to lineup
Scott Parse will see his first action of the season against Tampa Bay. Parse has been out since injuring his groin during the preseason. He’ll make his season debut on the first line with center Anze Kopitar and right wing Dustin Brown.
“I’m not worried about the injury at all," Parse said. “I’m just happy to be playing, just trying to do my part.”
As a rookie last season, Parse appeared in 59 games for the Kings, scoring 11 goals and contributing 13 assists. He was a sixth-round pick of the Kings in 2004.
More practice notes
To make room for Doughty, the Kings returned rookie defenseman Jake Muzzin to their AHL affiliate in Manchester. Muzzin had one assist and a minus-1 rating in eight games this season. “He needs to play and keep working at his game,” Murray said. “We like what he’s doing.”….Jonathan Quick will start in goal against the Lighting, who have the best record in the Eastern Conference heading into Wednesday’s games. Murray said he has Jonathan Bernier penciled in to start Saturday night against visiting Nashville…..Alexei Ponikarovsky was back at practice Wednesday after missing Tuesday’s with the flu. Poni, as he’s called by teammates, said the illness struck his entire family. He stayed in bed Tuesday and loaded up on chicken soup. “It was good to get something down,” he said.