Los Angeles Kings must keep winning without Anze Kopitar

Underrated is a relative term.

Some might scoff at the idea of Los Angeles Kings star Anze Kopitar being underrated, considering the fact that he played in the 2011 NHL All-Star Game. Others might be quick to list him as such, though, based on the fact that his Kings often play beyond many media members’ bed times so his efforts go largely unheralded. He also plays more of a two-way game, so even if he reaches nice point totals, he doesn’t – and might not ever – push his way toward the 100-point totals that generate Hart Trophy attention.

Yet however one might frame Kopitar’s talents relative to other elite players, few would question the notion that he is an enormously important skater for the Kings. Aside from stud defenseman Drew Doughty and steady goalie Jonathan Quick, Kopitar stands high above the other players on this roster. Some might say he’s even more valuable than Doughty, especially in a 2010-11 season that featured some tough moments for the outstanding young blueliner.

Either way, the Kings must find a way to compete without Kopitar. Los Angeles continued its disturbing tradition of stars suffering catastrophic injuries Saturday night, as Kopitar broke his ankle during a fairly routine board play that went terribly wrong.

This comes on the heels of Justin Williams’ latest unnerving injury, but the difference is that Kopitar doesn’t have a track record of getting hurt often. In fact, Helene Elliott mentions the fact that his 330 consecutive games played streak is a club record that will sadly stop at 330 when the Kings play the Oilers on Tuesday.

Elliott caught up with Kings captain Dustin Brown and head coach Terry Murray, who discussed how they will react to playing without Kopitar.

“He’s our best player. We’ve got to find a way either way,” team captain Dustin Brown said. “Injuries happen during the year. You don’t want to have your best player go down, but if that’s the case we’ve got to shoulder the responsibility collectively and find a way because no other team is going to feel sorry for us.”

(snip)

“I’ve been through these kinds of things before, with top guys being out with injuries and it’s an opportunity,” Murray said. “Other guys step up. The character of the team needs to step up.

“Everybody has to do the right things. You’ve got to trust your structure and your system and give it the best opportunity you can now as a group to finish things off and play the right way.”

(snip)

“We have to move on. We have games to play,” Murray said. “And we have games to win.”

Winning those games won’t be easy, but the Kings have a good chance of holding onto a playoff spot, even if they might sink from fifth place to a lower seed without Kopitar. They currently have 92 standings points with seven games remaining, giving them six more points than the ninth-ranked Dallas Stars, who have 86 points with eight games left.

Of course, there’s a big difference between making the playoffs and making an impact once you get there. If that is going to happen, it will require leaders like Brown and Doughty to step up while quiet role players such as Ryan Smyth will need to raise their games.

It won’t be easy, but we might find out a lot about these Kings without Kopitar.

Report: Up to eight teams have recently expressed interest in Duchene

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Another day, another development in the ongoing, lengthy Matt Duchene trade saga.

“Many teams are interested and many teams have been talking with (general manager) Joe Sakic of the Colorado Avalanche. Up to as many as eight teams over the last stretch of days,” said TSN’s Darren Dreger during Insider Trading.

“But the reality is none of these teams think they’re getting him. If you look at the Ottawa Senators, Pierre Dorion has been among the more aggressive and you look at the need he has with Clarke MacArthur out and Colin White out. But I’m pretty sure Ottawa doesn’t think they’re getting Matt Duchene. And the same applies to Montreal, Calgary, Vancouver, the Los Angeles Kings, the Nashville Predators and the Columbus Blue Jackets.”

Yesterday, it was reported in the Ottawa Sun that the Senators were making quite an aggressive push to try to land Duchene, the Avalanche center who has been for months the focus of trade speculation following yet another disastrous season for Colorado’s NHL team. That said, the same report added that the two sides aren’t close.

Duchene has two years remaining on his current contract — five years, $6 million annual cap hit — before he’s eligible for unrestricted free agency.

The Senators are dealing with a list of injuries up front right now, including the aforementioned MacArthur and White, the prospect center who got only a small sample of NHL playing time this past spring after his college season ended and he turned pro. The former did not pass his physical at the beginning of camp and the latter was announced as being out six to eight weeks with a wrist injury.

Last week, Duchene reported for training camp and gave a brief statement to reporters but didn’t take questions. He has since spoken to Mike Chambers of The Denver Post, calling his future with the Avalanche “day to day.”

“I’m not going to predict the future on my longevity here,” Duchene told The Denver Post. “I’m day by day. I’m just enjoying playing hockey. A lot got blown out of proportion. I said what I wanted to say then. Nothing’s changed since Thursday. I’m here to get better, I’m here for those reasons — that I said on Thursday.”

Trocheck’s upper-body injury not believed to be ‘anything serious’

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Vincent Trocheck scored a goal during Tuesday’s exhibition game versus Nashville, however the 24-year-old forward had his night limited by an upper-body injury.

Trocheck recorded 6:49 of ice time — the vast majority of that taking place on the power play — in the first period and missed the second and third periods.

Per reports, Trocheck was to have the injury re-evaluated today.

“He had an upper-body injury, I don’t think it’s anything serious,” Panthers coach Bob Boughner told 560 WQAM Sports Radio on Wednesday. “I expect him back for practice in the next couple days.”

Originally a third-round selection in the 2011 NHL Draft, Trocheck enjoyed a breakout season in 2015-16 with 25 goals and 53 points, emerging as one of Florida’s promising young forwards.

He followed that up with 23 goals and 54 points last season. That point total led the Panthers, a team that was decimated by injuries to a number of key players, particularly Aleksander Barkov, Aaron Ekblad and Jonathan Huberdeau.

After ‘a tough recovery and a long road,’ Tyler Myers is feeling healthy again

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The 2016-17 season wasn’t an easy one for Jets defenseman Tyler Myers.

The 27-year-old was limited to just 11 games because of a nagging groin injury that just didn’t want to go away. It was the first time in his NHL career that he was forced to sit out that long.

The good news, is that he appears to be fully healthy heading into this season.

“It was a tough recovery and a long road, but we got through it. I’m feeling good now and it’s exciting for me to be back on the ice with the guys,” said Myers, per the Winnipeg Sun. “You just have to put last year behind you and I don’t feel like it’s going to take too long to get back into the swing of things.”

On top of going through his own physical ailments, the Myers family was dealt another blow when their son, Tristan, was born five weeks prematurely and suffered a stroke.

Thankfully, Tristan’s now doing well, according to his father, and things are looking up for the entire family.

“There were so many things going on last year. I was getting treatment and then the personal stuff came up. It was a very strange year, but it was never in my mind that I wasn’t going to get back. I always knew I’d get back to this point. It just took a little bit longer, given what was going on.”

The Jets didn’t make the playoffs last season, but they have one of the deepest blue lines in the league heading into this season.

Myers is part of a group that includes Dustin Byfulgien, Toby Enstrom, Jacob Trouba, Josh Morrissey and Dmitry Kulikov, who signed with Winnipeg in free agency.

If the Jets miss the postseason again, it won’t be because of their blue line.

Getting back to Myers, it sounds like he’ll be making his preseason debut tonight against the Oilers:

A hand injury will force Alex Steen to miss the rest of training camp

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Here’s some more bad news if you’re a fan of the St. Louis Blues.

On Wednesday morning, the team announced that veteran forward Alex Steen will miss the rest of training camp because of a left hand injury.

The 33-year-old suffered the injury during last night’s 5-3 preseason loss to the Dallas Stars. Steen will be re-evaluated in three weeks time, according to the release sent out by the team.

The veteran forward has been hit hard by injuries throughout his career. He hasn’t played more than 80 games since the 2008-09 season. Last year, he missed only six games, but he’s been out for 43 contests over the last four seasons.

The Blues open the season in Pittsburgh on Oct. 4.

It’s been a rough training camp for the Blues so far, as they’ve already lost forward Zach Sanford (shoulder surgery) for 5-6 months and defenseman Jay Bouwmeester (fractured ankle) is also expected to be re-evaluated in three weeks.