The Los Angeles Kings boast some impressive features going into 2011-12. They have a great goalie duo, with a productive and growing starter in Jonathan Quick and a backup who makes scouts drool in Jonathan Bernier. After years of asking a lot from Anze Kopitar, the team will ease his burden with the addition of Mike Richards (and there could be a nice trickle down effect for Jarret Stoll, who slides into a more appropriate third line center role). From Drew Doughty to Willie Mitchell and Rob Scuderi, the Kings rock a hockey nerd’s dream of a defense and have the head coach to make it all work.
Yup, the Kings look like serious contenders on paper. There’s only one position that troubles many observers: the wings.
The team traded away Ryan Smyth and Wayne Simmonds in the off-season. With the free agent addition of Simon Gagne, the Kings’ top-six wingers look like: Gagne, Dustin Brown, Dustin Penner and Justin Williams.
That’s a compelling group, but the problem is that both Gagne and Williams have a long history of injury issues in their careers. Penner lost favor with a lot of Kings fans in his struggles after a splashy trade deadline move, but if nothing else, he was supposed to join Brown as the healthy ones. After all, Penner has only missed four games in the last five seasons.
Helene Elliott indicates that it might be safe to mark him down for “five games in six seasons” now. The big forward probably won’t play in the Kings’ season-opener against the New York Rangers this Friday afternoon. If that is the case, it’s likely that Gagne will slide into his spot alongside Kopitar and Williams while Brad Richardson will occupy Gagne’s wing with Richards and Brown.
It’s listed as a lower-body injury, with no clear indication of how severe it might be. Penner scored just six points in 19 regular season games and two points in six playoff games while drawing the ire of Kings fans. I have a strange feeling that he could make a more positive impact this season – at least on offense – because he’s in a contract year. (The Anaheim Ducks won the Stanley Cup the last year he was fighting for a new deal, for one thing.)
We’ll keep you updated about Penner’s injury situation, though.
(H/T to Rotoworld.)