If you weren’t aware before the playoffs started, you found out during the Los Angeles Kings’ run to winning their second Stanley Cup in three years that Anze Kopitar is a pretty good player.
Kopitar led all players in the postseason in points with 26. He had a hand in shutting down superstar centers Joe Thornton, Ryan Getzlaf, and Jonathan Toews in the first three rounds and did well to hold Derek Stepan to just two assists in the Cup Final.
Even in spite of his success, he may not jump to mind first when talking about elite centers in the NHL and Kings captain Dustin Brown can’t believe that as Corey Masisak of NHL.com shared.
“You try and describe guys [as] ‘shutdown D’ or ‘goal-scorer’ or ‘grinder.’ I’ve said this before about [Kopitar], he’s just a hockey player,” Brown said. “If the best play’s a pass, it’s a pass, if the best play’s a shot, it’s a shot. He’s just a complete hockey player. He doesn’t get enough credit in my opinion, partly probably because of the market we’re in, his background. If he was a Canadian and played in New York, [there would] probably be more people talking about him.”
There’s no doubt about that, but even as a Slovenian playing in Los Angeles, more people are taking notice of him. Winning two Stanley Cups helps out, but he’s been a top point producer for the Kings since entering the league in 2006. Having offense to go with the superstar-shutting-down defense makes him one of the league’s best.
As if Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final couldn’t get any more dramatic, it has — Tampa Bay captain Steve Stamkos, who hasn’t played since Mar. 31, will make his playoff debut against the Penguins tonight.
Stamkos underwent vascular surgery in early April to correct a blood clotting issue, and has remained on blood thinners ever since. While there’s been no confirmation he’s off medication, he did tell Sportsnet he’d be able to return to the lineup once he was.
Stamkos reiterated that he’s still on the same prescription of blood thinners he was given earlier this month. He takes a 12-hour dosage, twice a day, and it has been suggested to him that once he is cleared to stop taking the medication, Stamkos conceivably could return to the Lightning lineup almost immediately.
That’s why I’m trying to stay in shape,” he said.
Per NHL.com, Stamkos took the warmup and participated in line rushes centering Ondrej Palat and Ryan Callahan.
It’s been exactly eight weeks since Stamkos played his last game. At the time of his diagnosis, the Lightning said his timetable for recovery was 1-3 months.
To say his return will be a boost is a major understatement. Aside from the emotional factor, Stamkos led the Bolts in goals this year, with 36, and would presumably spark a power play that’s gone just 2-for-12 in the series.
Steve Stamkos took the team bus to tonight’s Eastern Conference Game 7 in Pittsburgh. As TVA noted, it was the first time he’s arrived early for a game in these playoffs.
In his pregame presser, Bolts head coach Jon Cooper refused to answer any questions about Stamkos’ availability.
And then Stamkos took the warmup.
As such, the drama surrounding Tampa Bay’s captain has reached an all-time high. Stamkos, who’s been out of the lineup since early April due to blood clots, looks as though he’s on the verge of an emotional comeback as the Lightning try to win an ECF Game 7 — on the road — for a second consecutive season.
“If Stamkos is in the lineup, it’s our best foot forward,” Cooper said. “If he’s not in the lineup, it’s because he wasn’t eligible to play.”
No word if No. 91 is still on the blood thinning medication he’s been taking since undergoing vascular surgery on Apr. 4.
EDINA, Minn. (AP) Minnesota Wild left wing Zach Parise has been rehabilitating his back injury without surgery, putting him on track to be at full strength by September.
Parise said Thursday he’s “happy with the way everything’s going.” He said he’s been able to work out as he normally does during the summer, despite missing the playoffs because of the injury.
Parise said there’s “no question” he’ll be ready to play for Team USA in the World Cup of Hockey tournament.
Parise joined teammates Erik Haula, Jason Pominville, Nate Prosser, Jared Spurgeon and Jason Zucker at an autograph signing to raise money for people affected by the wildfires in Alberta. The parents of Spurgeon’s wife, Danielle, lost their home to a fire in the Edmonton area.