|Corey Elkins had three shots, two hits and a blocked shot in his NHL debut, centering the Kings third line.
CALGARY – In an ideal situation, an NHL debut might be a low-stress situation for a player. A few shifts here and there, fourth-line minutes, that type of thing.
Corey Elkins, on the other hand, skated into a virtual firestorm.
With the Kings shorthanded on Tuesday night in Edmonton, Elkins played his first NHL game, centered the third line and was on the ice for 13 minutes, 38 seconds, including 1:19 of penalty-kill time in an intense, tight-checking game.
Elkins recorded three shots on goal, tied for second on the team, had two hits and blocked a shot, a pretty full night for a player who had just joined his teammates that morning.
"If I could have it any way, that would be the way to do it," Elkins said Wednesday, "just get thrown in there and try to keep it simple and make smart plays and play smart defensively. At first, I was almost, not shell-shocked, but it was definitely quicker than I had anticipated, but it was good. I think I adjusted fairly well, and hopefully I get to keep going."
It’s still unknown whether Elkins will be in the lineup Thursday night at Calgary. Jarret Stoll, whose spot in the lineup Elkins took, is still questionable for the game because of a groin strain. Defenseman Jack Johnson will miss the game with an ankle injury.
Kings coach Terry Murray said he hoped Stoll would be able to test his groin in Thursday’s morning skate, but wasn’t sure if Stoll would be able to play.
If not, Murray seems to have confidence in giving Elkins another shot.
"I thought Elkins was pretty good," Murray said. "The first game, it's pretty intense for him. That pace, that level of play, is probably the most difficult thing for a young guy to adjust to, but I like the use of his body.
"He's a big guy who got involved along the boards, protected the puck. He took some hits to make plays. D-zone coverage sometimes, a little bit, got a little too fast for him, but again, I look at that as the first game. We'll watch it closely as we go forward."
Elkins, 24, signed a one-year contract with the Kings in March, as an undrafted free agent, after a four-year collegiate career at Ohio State.
"It felt like the right fit," Elkins said. "Going through my senior year, it was almost like another recruiting process. It was a cool experience to have, actually. With everyone, with (assistant GM Ron Hextall) and L.A., it just felt right. I'm just really excited to be a part of such a great organization."
Murray did not give a specific update on Johnson, who left the game Tuesday after being struck in the ankle area by a Sheldon Souray shot, but Murray said Johnson "should be in pretty good shape" when the Kings return on Dec. 26 from their lengthy holiday break.
The Kings on Wednesday called up defenseman Alec Martinez from Manchester of the AHL and, to make room for Martinez on the roster, placed forward Wayne Simmonds (knee injury) on injured reserve.
Martinez was scheduled to join the Kings in Calgary later Wednesday, and Murray said he anticipated that Martinez would play against the Flames.
SECOND LINE STEPS UP
From the start of the season, the need for secondary scoring has been a major issue for the Kings. On Tuesday, it was a big reason for their success.
Injuries forced Murray to piece together a second line of center Michal Handzus and wingers Brad Richardson and Dustin Brown. All that line did was score twice in the first period to give the Kings a 2-0 lead.
Asked, Wednesday, about the line, Murray laughed and said, "I can’t touch it. It’s on fire."
Turning serious, then, Murray offered high praise for Richardson, who would have to be in the running for an unofficial "most improved player" title this season. Richardson started off on the fourth line but has seen his minutes steadily increase.
Richardson scored less than six minutes into the game, then made the pass that led to Brown’s goal 3:44 into the second period.
"Richardson, boy, there's a story in itself," Murray said. "He doesn't get into the lineup much last season, I don't like what I'm seeing. It's that battle. The dot-to-board game wasn't there. The heavy play, heavy stick wasn't there, even on the checking part of the game it wasn't consistent. But he has battled through.
"He starts off on the fourth line, he sucks it up, playing a few minutes, and gets moved up here and there and responds to the opportunity. Now, you see what happens last night when he's playing on a higher line on a consistent basis. He came through big time."
For his part, Richardson is just glad to be able to contribute.
"It's obviously a great feeling that you can chip in," Richardson said. "I don't know what happened there, but the chemistry just kind of clicked. Sometimes that's the way it goes, but we felt we played pretty well and hopefully we can keep going tomorrow night."
FUTURE KINGS HONORED
Team Canada announced its roster for the upcoming World Junior Championships, which start Dec. 26, and it will include four Kings prospects: forwards Brandon Kozun and Brayden Schenn, defenseman Colten Teubert and goalie Martin Jones.