EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – For a few shifts it was like old times for Tyler Toffoli, Tanner Pearson and Linden Vey. The three have formed the top line for the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League at times this season, and Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter put them together briefly Wednesday.
Toffoli has made a case to stay with four points and four assists with a plus-5 rating in nine games, but Pearson and Vey's time appear to be winding down with Jeff Carter and Kyle Clifford nearing a return. Carter skated with the team for a second straight day Saturday, before the Kings played the Colorado Avalanche, and Clifford (upper body) told reporters he has been medically cleared.
Sutter previously said Carter (foot) is doubtful for Saturday, and Carter stayed out for extra work after the optional skate.
Further crowding the bottom of the lineup is Jordan Nolan, who is recovering from an undisclosed injury. Sutter hasn't heaped much praise on Pearson and Vey, although he said Friday it was good for the young players to be up here.
Vey, who centers left wing Pearson on the fourth line, is just trying to play smart hockey with the 8-10 minutes he gets as opposed to the role he has in the AHL.
"You [get] a lot of ice down in Manchester," Vey said. "When you're down there you're expected to be the go-to guy and you come up here and your job is just to make sure you play well in all three zones and contribute. I've actually been pretty lucky the coach has been giving me a lot of responsibility, a lot opportunity. It's been a lot better than I expected."
Sutter gave the three significant time on the power play in the previous game. Vey had three assists in his first four games and Pearson got his first NHL goal on Nov.14, but Sutter has said he wants more.
Vey said he's trying to learn as much as he can while he's up here.
"It's been really good, obviously," Vey said. "It's exciting to be up here. It's the place you want to be, especially with how well the team's been playing … it's easy to be around the rink when you're winning, and it's our job to keep the ball rolling."
Los Angeles held an optional skate Satruday and Sutter was not available. Colorado did not skate.
Here is the Kings' expected lineup:
Dustin Brown – Anze Kopitar – Justin Williams
Dwight King – Mike Richards – Tyler Toffoli
Daniel Carcillo – Jarret Stoll – Matt Frattin
Tanner Pearson – Linden Vey – Trevor Lewis
Jake Muzzin – Drew Doughty
Robyn Regehr – Slava Voynov
Willie Mitchell – Alec Martinez
Injured: Jonathan Quick (groin), Jeff Carter (foot), Kyle Clifford (upper body), Matt Greene (upper body), Jordan Nolan (undisclosed)
Scratched: Colin Fraser