Though center Anze Kopitar has missed the last five games because of a hand/arm injury, he still wanted to contribute to the Kings’ success. He figured out how to do the next-best thing.
“I try to help the guys out, yelling at the TV,” he said. “Some stuff comes out of my mouth like I’m on the bench, and you’re seeing the game and trying to help them out.”
Kopitar, the team’s top scorer each of the past nine seasons and the 2015-16 Selke Trophy winner as the NHL’s best defensive forward, might be able to offer more substantial help as soon as Wednesday night, when the Kings face the New York Islanders at Staples Center. It’s possible he will return for that game, though a decision likely won’t be made until he takes stock of how he feels after Wednesday’s morning skate.
“We’ll see. Nothing’s for certain but I wouldn’t exclude it, either,” Kopitar said Tuesday, after the team went through a lengthy practice in El Segundo. “We’ll see how it feels. I’m progressing in the right direction and the main goal is to do that, feeling better every day and then when it’s time, it will be time and I will play again.”
Coach Darryl Sutter said Kopitar “is skating really good,” after the Slovenian center skated alongside two other injured forwards, Andy Andreoff (upper-body) and Marian Gaborik (broken foot). “We’ll see how he feels [Wednesday]. He’s day to day,” Sutter said.
Kopitar, who had two goals and eight points in 15 games before he exited the lineup, said he’s feeling better than he did a few days ago, “so definitely on the right path, on the right track,” he said. The final hurdle will be when he is sure he can play at full capacity.
“Just feeling good on the ice and doing everything that I need to do,” he said of the sign or moment he’s awaiting before being sure he can return. “I personally can’t go, and wouldn’t let myself go on the ice and not be able to do what I need to do to help this team. That’s the last one that I’ve got to clear with myself and feel comfortable and feel good about it.”
He also said Jeff Carter’s recent scoring spree (four goals and six points in the last three games) means he hasn’t had to rush back from his injury and perhaps return too soon.
“It’s been great. It’s not like he hasn’t done it before when I’ve been in,” Kopitar said. “He’s obviously one of our go-to guys and the way he’s played last week and the last five, six games it’s very, very nice to see him go like that and get on the scoresheet. It obviously builds his confidence which is good for everybody.
“It definitely takes a little bit pressure off so I can just focus on my thing and get better and not rush it too much. I’m usually the guy you’ve got to pull back and tell him to take a few more days or games, or whatever the case may be. It’s hard to watch. It’s very boring not to be around the guys all the time because you’re pretty much on your own program and watch games is no fun.”
KINGS NEXT UP
When: Wednesday vs. New York Islanders
When: 7:30 p.m.
On the air: Radio: 790. TV: FS West.
Update: The Kings have won three straight games, their third winning streak of three or more this season. Their longest winning streak so far is four, Oct. 20-27. Their power play, which has struggled, is coming off its first multiple-goal performance: Jeff Carter scored twice with the man advantage in their 3-2 victory over the Ducks on Sunday at Anaheim. Former King Butch Goring, a four-time Stanley Cup champion with the Islanders and now the Islanders’ TV analyst, is scheduled to drop the ceremonial first puck. The Islanders, who played the Ducks on Tuesday at Anaheim, got off to a slow start that has triggered questions about the job security of Coach Jack Capuano. However, Capuano got a vote of confidence last week from General Manager Garth Snow.