EL SEGUNDO, CA — Although it might sound rather odd, the Los Angeles Kings were quite the strange sight on the ice at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, California on December 21.
After all, they haven’t been at their practice facility much lately, having played eleven out of their last 15 games on the road.
But an even stranger sight was a tall, somewhat dark, bearded fellow who joined them on the ice for practice, his first with the team since he took a shot off his foot during a pre-season game on October 3.
Left wing Dwight King suffered a broken foot that required surgery, landing him on injured reserve to start the 2015-16 season. He began skating on his own while the Kings were on their just-ended six-game road swing through Eastern and Canadian cities.
“I skated with [right wing] Trevor [Lewis, who was also injured], twice before he joined [the team] on the road trip,” said King. “That helped—a little bit of passing. The last couple of days were by myself. Long days, but it was all right.”
Team doctors cleared King to practice early on December 21.
“I got cleared today to practice with the guys,” he said. “I’ll be doing that, for at least these two days, before the break. I think we’ll re-evaluate after that.
“[Today] got a little better as it went on,” he added. “Making passes and getting open was an adjustment, at the start. But we’ve been doing the same drills for the last five years, so that makes it a little easier.”
King said that he felt no discomfort during or after practice.
“When I tried my skate on two weeks ago, or whenever that was, there was discomfort then,” he noted. “I think the last two weeks, or at least, the last week, helped with the swelling. But today, I didn’t have any issues at all, so it was good.”
For any professional hockey player, being unable to play and mostly away from the team while recovering is difficult, and King was no exception.
“It was difficult, mentally,” King noted. “It was almost like an eight-month summer for me, with the short training camp, and 2 1/2 months to get back into shape. Mentally, it was a little tougher. Physically, everybody’s used to preparing themselves to play, so that part was OK. Finally, I’m drawing near the end, which is kind of exciting.”
“It’s been good and bad,” King added. “It’s been a little bit frustrating, not being able to skate for that long. I think last week helped me, leading into today.”
“It’s tough to watch, but as long as the boys are playing well, winning games, that’s exciting to see. That’s what you want, as a teammate.”
As for when he might return…
“Technically, I wouldn’t be able to play in a game,” he said. “I’m ‘practice cleared.’”
“Don’t expect him in 2015,” head coach Darryl Sutter told the media after practice.
If the timetable for his injury is any indication, King seems likely to return after New Year’s Day.
“I was told 10-12 weeks,” he noted. “It’ll be eleven [today], so it’s pretty close to what the doctors said. Now, it’s one more check-up, and then conditioning.”
King’s long recovery period wasn’t consumed entirely by rehabilitation work. Indeed, he also got the rare opportunity to spend more time with his family at a time when he usually wouldn’t.
In fact, King was able to watch his daughter, Grace, who will be three years old in February, perform in the winter concert for her pre-school class.
“They [performed] three songs, Grace’s class,” King beamed. “They did Frosty the Snowman, Jingle Bells, and something else. It was cute.”
“That was nice. I won’t get [that opportunity] every year.”