After a weak showing in the playoffs last season, the Los Angeles Kings wanted to put together a strong regular season and successful post-season showing for 2016/17, but the campaign did not start well. First off, starting goaltender Jonathan Quick went down with a potentially season-ending injury, then backup netminder Jeff Zatkoff went down with an injury.
Luckily for the Kings, 11-season veteran Peter Budaj was ready to step-up for his team. Stability was regained, but then LA’s captain went down with an upper-body injury. Anze Kopitar has missed five games so far – prior to the Wednesday night match-up against the New York Islanders – but his return might be on the horizon.
Loss of the captain
Anze Kopitar – last season’s Frank J. Selke trophy winner – last donned the Kings’ black jersey against the Ottawa Senators on November 11, at the Canadian Tire Centre. He left the game with an upper-body injury having clocked 17:55 of ice time; Ottawa went on to score a very late winner.
To tail off that five-game road trip – with the game against the Sens being the centerpiece – the Kings lost in a shootout against the Winnipeg Jets and by 4-1 in Colorado, all without their captain. Then, back at Staples Center, Los Angeles strung together two consecutive wins, making it a three-game winning streak after their game in Anaheim on Sunday.
Whilst the Kings have missed Anze Kopitar’s elite defensive game – he still has the most faceoff wins for the Kings on the season with 194 prior to playing the Isles tonight – Los Angeles has done very well to find some form in his absence.
Close to a return?
According to Rotowire, Anze Kopitar was able to return to practice on Tuesday but remains questionable to suit up tonight against the New York Islanders.
With the game being at home, against the floundering New York Islanders, whilst the Kings are in great form, it wouldn’t be surprising if Kopitar was allowed to take an extra day of rest, taking him up to six games missed. Even without the Slovenian duel king, LA should easily beat this Islanders team.
If he were to miss tonight’s game, Kopitar would get an extra three days to prepare for the game against the Chicago Blackhawks at the Staples Center. The Kings will be begging for a Kopitar return for that fixture, needing him to neutralize the prowess of Jonathan Toews.
Then comes the California derby against their bitter rivals, the San Jose Sharks, next Wednesday. So Kopitar has a very favorable schedule this week, with few games and plenty of rest days. It seems the most likely that he’ll return against Chicago, but don’t rule him out of playing in tonight’s game just yet.
Are you looking forward to the return of Anze Kopitar? Let us know in the comments section below.