Former Capitals defenseman Jeff Schultz is expected to make his NHL season debut tonight when the Los Angeles Kings visit the Anaheim Ducks in Game 2 of their second-round series [NBCSN; 10:00 p.m.].
Schultz signed with the Kings last summer after having the final year of his contract bought out by the Capitals, but spent the entire regular season with the American Hockey League’s Manchester Monarchs.
“It’s an exciting time,” Schultz told reporters at practice Sunday. “I worked hard all year, and didn’t think this day was going to come, but I have the opportunity to help the team win and I’m going to go out there and do my best and do what they ask of me to do.”
Schultz is expected to take Robyn Regehr’s spot in the Kings lineup after Regehr left Game 1 with an undisclosed injury. L.A. is also without veteran defenseman Willie Mitchell who suffered an undisclosed injury in the Kings’ first-round series against San Jose and has not returned. The Kings beat the Ducks 3-2 in overtime in Game 1 and have a 1-0 series lead.
“It looks like it’s a lot of fun out there,” Schultz said. “The Ducks are a team that’s really heavy on the forecheck and they come hard, so it’s just a matter of getting back and moving pucks up and getting out of our zone.”
Schultz appeared in 399 regular season and 29 playoff games with the Capitals from 2006-13, but the 28-year-old last played in an NHL game on March 31, 2013. Schultz was a healthy scratch for the final 13 games of Washington’s 2012-13 campaign, before serving the same role for all seven games of the Capitals’ first-round series against the New York Rangers.
“It’s a whole new season. Everything’s intensified that much more. It’s just a matter of going out there and playing your best,” said Schultz, who had two goals, 13 points and a plus-10 rating in 67 games this season with Manchester.
“I had a little chat with [head coach Darryl Sutter], and he said just kind of go out there and play. It’s hard to replace a guy like Robyn, but I feel like I’m capable of doing a similar job to what he can do.”
An argument can be made that Schultz’s career peaked with the Capitals during the team’s Presidents’ Trophy winning season in 2009-10. Schultz had career-highs across the board with three goals and 23 points in 73 games. He also led the NHL with a plus-50 rating while playing primarily alongside Mike Green on Washington’s top defensive pairing.
Schultz’s Kings’ debut will also provide a reunion of sorts as he goes up against former Caps teammate Mathieu Perreault and former Hershey Bears and Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau.
“I haven’t seen or talked to Bruce in a while,” Schultz said of the Ducks’ bench boss. “I was glad to see him get the job, but business is business, and it’ll be kind of fun to see what it’s like playing against him.”