LOS ANGELES – Just when the Los Angeles Kings had grown to love Ryan Smyth’s contributions to their top line, they lost the gritty winger for what could be a month.
Smyth is expected to be out of the Kings’ lineup for a few weeks because of an upper-body injury, the club disclosed Wednesday. It’s the first big dose of adversity for Los Angeles, which has the Western Conference’s third best record early in its quest to end a six-season playoff drought.
Smyth has nine goals and 14 assists in his first 22 games with the Kings, who acquired him from Colorado during the off-season. The 15-year NHL veteran has been a major contributor in Los Angeles’ solid start, providing sharp passes and steady leadership in a pairing with league scoring leader Anze Kopitar on the Kings’ top line.
“He’s one of the key guys on our team, for sure, but that doesn’t matter right now,” Kopitar said. “He’s going to be gone for a month, and somebody else is going to have to step up. We’re just going to have to play hard without him and try to win games. We’re all going to miss him, but his injury is not going to be healed tomorrow.”
Smyth also hadn’t given up his trademark grit in front of the net while getting off to one of the quickest offensive starts of his own career. He has never scored more than 70 points in a season, but was on pace for 86 before the injury.
“What he does very well is his composure with the puck,” Kings coach Terry Murray said. “He handles it in pressure situations, makes the game look easy and slows the game down. He can take it to the net, make plays off of plays in the offensive zone, and can make something happen out of nothing very easily.”
The Kings aren’t disclosing the nature of Smyth’s injury, but he didn’t return after the second period of a game Monday at Florida, Los Angeles’ final stop on a five-game trip.
Alexander Frolov took Smyth’s spot on the top line during the Kings’ 3-2 loss to Philadelphia on Wednesday night. Frolov was the Kings’ leading goal scorer with 32 last season, but he’s been inconsistent this fall, even getting benched for a game by Murray.
“Frolov’s a pretty good hockey player,” Murray said. “(He’s) a little bit different in style, but it’s not like they haven’t played together in the past. They have to figure out that part for themselves. It’s an opportunity for Kopi to really step up his game to the next level, I think, and say, ‘Hey, look, I’m a part of the reason why success is happening for me also.”‘
Frolov went scoreless in 21 minutes of play against Philadelphia, managing just one shot. He hasn’t scored a goal in 10 games, and has just four this season while getting bumped to the checking line.
“On the other side of it with Fro, I think this is a great opportunity for him,” Murray said. “He can play on that line, play important minutes, big minutes, and be looked at as a player that’s more on the offensive side of the game than the checking line.”
Defenceman Rob Scuderi also sat out due to a lower-body injury. The Kings haven’t said how long he’ll be out.