EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Los Angeles Kings forward Jeff Carter returned to practice Monday as the team readies itself for its Western Conference playoff opener Wednesday against the top-seeded Vancouver Canucks.
Carter, who missed the last five games of the regular season with a deep bone bruise in his ankle, said he's making progress with his strength and movement and will be ready for Game 1.
"For sure," said Carter, who averaged 36 goals over the previous four seasons.
Kings coach Darryl Sutter, on the other hand, wasn't ready to look that far ahead.
"He still has a ways to go," Sutter said of Carter. "We just have to evaluate (the injury) a day at a time."
Acquired in a trade deadline deal in late February to boost an offense that ranked last in the NHL at the time, Carter had six goals and three assists in 16 games with the Kings before the injury. The Kings went 11-5-0 with him in the lineup, helping secure a playoff berth for the third consecutive season.
The Kings had a chance to clinch their first Pacific Division title in 21 years and home-ice advantage in the first round, but couldn't hold two-goal leads late in games Thursday and Saturday against the San Jose Sharks and only earned two of the available four points.
They finished No. 8 in the West, putting them on the road for Games 1 and 2 in Vancouver.
Dan Arritt covers the Kings for ESPNLosAngeles.com.