Injuries are all a part of the game in hockey, and dealing with season-altering ones are never easy to deal with. We’ve seen the Pittsburgh Penguins do an extremely great job of handling the losses of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin this season and now the Los Angeles Kings will have to do without their top offensive threat Anze Kopitar.
Kopitar’s broken ankle suffered in yesterday’s game against Colorado has him on the shelf for at least the next six weeks which puts him out for the rest of the season and for most of the playoffs. The Kings have to find ways to keep winning to get themselves into the playoffs but how do you replace your best scorer? The Kings will have to do it with what they’ve already got and hope their current lineup can step up their play. Rich Hammond of L.A. Kings Insider shows us what the Kings lines looked like without Kopitar against Colorado.
The Kings are playing without 22-goal scorer Justin Williams as well as he’s out with a dislocated shoulder, an injury that when he does return could be re-aggravated suddenly and without much effort needed for it to happen. Ideally, the Kings would look for Andrei Loktionov to come up and try to supply the offense needed. The problem there is that he was hurt playing in the AHL and is unable to be called up.
Instead, the Kings might have to either plug in enforcer Kevin Westgarth on the fourth line or use a seventh defenseman in that role. That’s not the most encouraging situation to be in. Instead, the Kings are going to have to hope that guys like Jarrett Stoll and Michal Handzus can step up in their play at center and perhaps get youngsters Trevor Lewis and Oscar Moller to emerge with more ice time.
There’s no doubt that veterans like Dustin Brown and Ryan Smyth need to step up their games and shoulder the burden of carrying the offense, but the Kings could try to take a page out of Penguins coach Dan Bylsma’s book. With the losses the Pens have had, they’ve adapted their style into a much more aggressive forecheck and tightened things up defensively to the point the once run and gun Pens are almost boring to watch. Kings coach Terry Murray always stresses strict defensively tough play and we can certainly expect more of that from them now.
Will it work for them though? It’s tough to tell because so much of the offense ran through Kopitar and while the Kings have fought some offensive inconsistency, Kopitar’s been the one consistent guy. Things can go right for the Kings and they can get hot and make a run in the playoffs, but to win the Stanley Cup, Kopitar is a necessity. If the Kings can make a deep enough run and Kopitar’s condition improves, he might just be able to help them rally to go all the way. As it is for now, the pressure shifts to captain Dustin Brown and coach Terry Murray to help keep their high hopes alive in Hollywood.