LA Kings: Defenseman Sean Walker back and ‘feeling good’

LA Kings (Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports)
LA Kings (Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports) /

Sean Walker returned to the lineup for the LA Kings on Monday, and the 26-year-old indicated he felt good in his first game back.

With a 3-2-2 record, the LA Kings may not have exactly exploded out of the gate to start the 2020-21 campaign, but from top to bottom, things were nonetheless on a promising trajectory. However, when January 28 came and went, the Kings were without two of their top defensemen indefinitely.

That night, the Kings were in St. Paul, looking to sweep their two-game set with the Wild. Unfortunately, Matt Roy left the game following a scary hit into the boards. A little later in the contest, Sean Walker left the game after a Matt Dumba shot hit him in the face. So, while the Kings ultimately lost the game, the team and its fans were understandably less concerned about the game’s end result than they were about the welfare of two of their best blueliners.

The next few games proved to be of little solace as the Kings lost four-straight games, although they did earn a point in the latter, losing to the Sharks in overtime. Suddenly, the silver-and-black were treading on thin ice. But then, the club turned things around and won their next four games, entering Monday’s contest in St. Louis.

With Matt Roy have already returned to the lineup, Sean Walker was next, and while it meant taking the impressive Austin Strand out of the lineup, the door was open for the Keswick, ON, native to return after a three-week absence.

While he didn’t register any points, Walker finished the evening with a plus-one rating and 17:58 of ice time as the Kings won 3-0 to earn their fifth-straight victory.

Following practice on Tuesday, Walker spoke with the media about how he felt being back in the lineup and even how sporting a cage feels. First, the 26-year-old touched on what he did during his absence in preparation for his comeback, whether it was watching video of past games or studying future opponents.

“I think it’s kind of a mix of everything,” Walker said. “Obviously, when you’re watching the games, you get to see a lot more things from the sky and kind of– you can pick out certain things and kind of figure out what you might want to do better or watch guys and see what they’re doing and think about doing it yourself.

Prior to Monday’s game, head coach Todd McLellan had said that they wanted Walker to be at a point where he felt good emotionally before returning to the lineup.

He was.

“For me, obviously, it was an injury that I had to make sure I was on top of my conditioning and stuff like that and make sure I was feeling okay,” the defenseman added. “So, that was kind of the main focus, and then once I got back to practice, just kind of dialed it in there and made sure I was prepared to go.”

While returning to the lineup from any injury comes with its respective challenges, coming back from getting a puck to the face would instill more fear than most injuries. This, however, was not the case for Walker. After all, with the necessary conditioning and preparation he had mentioned, the blueliner was ready to go on Monday.

“I wouldn’t say it’s much different than any other injury,” admitted Walker. “You know, obviously, I have to wear the cage, so that’s kind of the main thing that was the issue, obviously, just getting used to that. But besides that, I think it’s kind of very similar to any other injury. You just make sure you’re on top of your conditioning, and, you know, the trainer’s obviously put in place a return-to-play program for you, basically. So, yeah, I’d say really, it was only the cage. Besides that, just made sure I was ready to go when my time came.”

As for the cage, there were questions regarding how awkward Walker would feel being so used to wearing a traditional visor since turning pro.

“I think it’s just something you’ve got to get used to, again,” the Bowling Green alum said. “I wore a cage in college, so after a couple of skates, it comes back to you. But obviously, there’s a cage in your face instead of a visor, so it’s a little awkward at first, but once you get comfortable with it again, it’s fine.”

It could be argued that the LA Kings are in an enviable situation — or unenviable, depending on your perspective. After all, at this point, they are dealing with the dilemma of having more skilled defensemen than spots on their blueline. As mentioned, Sean Walker’s return meant that Austin Strand, who has been very impressive with the big club thus far, was taken out of the lineup. Of course, this is a dilemma that the LA Kings have been prepared for, and they will handle it as they see fit.

In the meantime, Sean Walker’s return should be — and is, quite frankly — a time for exuberance, and even relief. How the silver-and-black were going to fare without his and Matt Roy’s services was fodder for skepticism. However, the LA Kings have been just fine as of late, and there are fewer ideal situations than having one of your top defensemen be smoothly transitioned into a lineup that is, for all intents and purposes, hitting on all cylinders.

Next. McLellan didn’t appreciate Trevor Moore enough last year. dark

So, let us hope that Sean Walker’s return is an auspicious sign of things to come. After all, the LA Kings are looking better than they have in quite some time, and after Monday night, that statement has only magnified. That is thanks, in part, to one Sean Walker.