was talking fast and thinking fast Thursday afternoon, and you can't blame him. The Kings' star defenseman is 20 years old (21 next month), and to him sitting out for six straight games is equivalent to staring at a wall for days or trying to count the stars in the Southern California sky.
"I'm so excited for this game tonight," Doughty told NHL.com. "I can't wait to get it going."
Doughty was activated off injured reserve Thursday after sitting out since suffering a concussion when Carolina forward Erik Cole
struck him in the jaw Oct. 20. He has cleared every medical hurdle, practiced the last two days and is ready to re-take control of the Kings' blue line against Tampa Bay on Thursday.
The Kings and Lightning are tied atop the NHL standings with 16 points apiece.
"Feeling good," Doughty said. "Back to normal."
"I'm really excited to play him. He's one of the best players in the League and as a D-man I take pride in shutting down the other team's top players." -- Drew Doughty on facing Steven Stamkos
Doughty, who will be wearing a mouthguard for added protection against further concussions, said the feeling he got after the Cole hit was unlike anything he's experienced before. He said he's had minor concussions in the past, but nothing that forced him out of a game.
"They were little scares, and back then with concussions you didn't have to go through all the same steps medically," Doughty said. "Now they're real strict with them and they don't want to mess around."
He said he had feelings of dizziness and cloudiness, and his jaw hurt.
"I just wasn't feeling right," he said. "That's when you know you got your bell rung. It stunk, and it happens too much these days."
He said he felt normal for a while before he finally got clearance to lace up his skates, "but with an injury like that you don't want to rush back. I hopefully have a long career ahead of me, and you don't want to mess around too much with that."
Doughty watched the Kings on television and said it was weird and difficult.
"It's not fun watching your teammates and buddies play when you know you could be out there helping them," Doughty said.
But the Kings went 4-2-0 without him, proving they're a good team even without arguably their best player in the lineup.
"They were really good when I was out of the lineup and because we have been winning I don't want to try to do too much and make up for my lost time tonight because I won't play as well," said Doughty, who will be paired with Willie Mitchell
against the Lightning. "I want to keep things simple, stick to the system and make the easy plays."
Doughty makes it out to be so simple, but that'll hardly be the case with Steven Stamkos
on the other end.
Stamkos and Doughty went first and second, respectively, in the 2008 Entry Draft and both have blossomed into superstars in the League. Stamkos shared the Rocket Richard Trophy last season with Sidney Crosby
, while Doughty was a finalist for the Norris Trophy.
"He's a great player and that's why he went first overall," Doughty said of Stamkos, who leads the NHL with 10 goals and 20 points this season. "He's already one of the best players in the League. He's done great for himself."
In a pair of head-to-head matchups, Stamkos has 2 assists and his team has collected three points (1-0-1), while Doughty has a goal and his team has two points (1-1-0).
Doughty scored the Kings' lone goal seven minutes into the third period of their 2-1 shootout victory against Tampa Bay last season (Nov. 14, 2009).
"Yeah, 4-on-3, off their D-man's skate," Doughty recalled. "I remember that one. I think it was (Andrej) Meszaros."
Stamkos had an assist on Ryan Malone
's tying goal 4:39 later in the third period. Stamkos also had an assist in Tampa's 3-1 win against the Kings on Jan. 12, 2009.
"It's going to be exciting tonight," Doughty said of the matchup. "As good buddies as me and Stammer are, and we have played a lot together and been through a lot together through the draft -- we're pretty good buddies -- I'm really excited to play him. He's one of the best players in the League and as a D-man I take pride in shutting down the other team's top players."
He's ready to do that tonight. He's been waiting quite a while.
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl