Jeff Carter Could Still Be “A Week Away” From Returning to the LA Kings Lineup

Los Angeles Kings forward Jeff Carter
Photo: Gann Matsuda/
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EL SEGUNDO, CA — If you’re keeping your fingers crossed, hoping that forward Jeff Carter will return to the lineup tonight, when the Los Angeles Kings host the Edmonton Oilers at Staples Center, you’ll probably have to wait a little while longer.

A source close to the Kings has indicated that Carter is estimated to be about one week away from returning, and based on comments made during interviews after practice on February 23, it seems very unlikely that he’ll be ready to go tonight, and perhaps not even for the home-and-home series against the Vegas Golden Knights on February 26 and 27.

Carter participated in a full practice with the team on February 23.

“I can skate in a straight line all day,” he said. “There’s still some little stuff that has to be worked on and we’ll continue to do that.”

Head coach John Stevens was impressed with Carter during practice.

“I thought he looked great,” he said. “Jeff is a natural guy. His skating has always been very fluid and agile, and I’ve been to see him many times over his rehab here. I know how hard he has worked, so he looked good. If you didn’t know he was an injured player, you would probably have a tough time picking him out. He looked like he skated well, he looked like his timing was pretty good, he looked like he handled the puck well. I haven’t talked to him but from my perspective, he looked good.”

Despite that, Stevens cautioned against getting excited about an immediate return.

“It was great to see him today integrated in practices,” he said. “Put him on a line so he could get lots of reps. That’s a really big step for him. He has really worked hard at his rehab and conditioning, and it’s important to get some hockey reps in, so I haven’t talked to him after practice yet or [head athletic trainer Chris Kingsley], other than watching him out there. It was great to see him with the team, and I’ll touch base with Chris and the staff after, to see where he’s at.”

“It’s one thing to get him on the ice, but he needs reps at his position, and our guys have had the ability to move around and guys have played lots of hockey lately, so if guys were four on a line, it’s not going to affect them the way it affects Jeff,” he added. “Jeff needs reps. I thought it was great that he got on a line. I know he was looking to get on a line so he could get reps the way he normally does, and that’s going to be the gauge of how he feels.”

Stevens gave the Kings medical and training staff a lot of credit for Carter’s rehabilitation.

“Everything is geared through Chris Kingsley, our medical trainer,” he noted. “He would work with our team of performance people with John Meyer, who has been overseeing all of his rehab, as a therapist, [strength and conditioning coach] Matt Price [and] his assistant, Trent [Frye], stayed behind, and the work they did while we were away was tremendous.”

“The difference in Jeff between when we left and came back is a real credit to Jeff, John and Trent-the work they did here-pretty remarkable how far he has come during our road trip,” he added. “Those guys all communicate with each other. Obviously, rehab medically to the point where he’s allowed to be fully functional, and then [Kingsley] would be in close contact with John and [Price] to see where he’s at, from a physiological standpoint, and then, obviously, coaches are going to be there, from a hockey standpoint. So there’s daily communication on where he’s at, and then we’ll talk to the athlete. But as coaches, we need to hear the word, ‘go, good to go,’ and then we’ll decide on a lineup.”

Carter expressed some relief after skating with the team on February 22 and 23.

“It’s nice,” he noted. “Pretty much sick of skating by myself, so it was nice to get back out there with the guys and get into some actual hockey drills. It has been good.”

On February 23, Carter was reunited with left wing Tanner Pearson and right wing Tyler Toffoli, putting the “That 70’s Line” back together, at least for that practice.

“It’s always good [to play with Pearson and Toffoli,” he said. “We’ve played a lot together. We’ve had some success together. It’s nice just to get out there with the guys.”

“It’s definitely nice to have him back out there,” said Pearson. “He’s another veteran guy, another scorer on our team. It’s pretty much a [trade] deadline acquisition itself, getting him back now, for the stretch. He’s definitely going to help us win. Hopefully, when he comes back, [their line will] get things going again.”

“He plays every situation,” added Pearson. “Defensive zone draws, penalty-kill, power play, everything. He definitely gives our team another option.”

Out of the lineup since last October, getting going again has Carter chomping at the bit, so to speak.

“[Being out of the lineup is] never easy,” he said. “Me personally, this is the longest that I’ve been out for any extended period of time. It was a new challenge for me, I guess. Team-wise, nobody wants to sit out. Nobody wants to be out of the lineup for four-and-a-half months. It has been a lot-sitting at home watching the games on the couch. I tried to be around the guys as best as [I could] on practice days and what not, but you have to kind of let them do their thing and focus on what they have to do. It has been a long time.”

Carter indicated that his recovery and rehabilitation went about as well as could be expected.

“With the nature of the injury, we were pretty limited in what we could do, at first,” he observed. “Really couldn’t do a whole lot until I got on the ice, I’ll put it that way, and then it was building it up. I think everybody involved is all kind of happy with how it has progressed, [but] we have some work to do, though.”

“It has been a lot with the rehab team, strength team, and getting back on the ice,” he added. “Been trying to get going. Luckily, I’ve had a really good team with me. John Meyer’s group, Chris Kingsley, [assistant athletic trainer] Myles Hirayama, Trent Frey, and [Price], we’re pretty fortunate here that we have the group of guys that we have here to help us through injuries.”

When Carter returns, he’ll be playing with some new teammates-Dion Phaneuf, Tobias Rieder and Nate Thompson, all acquired in trades in the last couple of weeks.

“It’s exciting,” he said. “I think starting with [Thompson], and Dion coming in since then, I think you can kind of see a little boost in the guys. I think when management goes out and makes trades like they have, it’s a sign to the players that they believe in the team and they think we can put something together. I think that, in this room, it gives the guys a boost and I think we’ve seen that.”

Stick tap to Josh Cooper (@joshuacooper) for his contributions to this story.

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