Anze Kopitar – Will he be ready to play on Saturday?

Anze Kopitar Kings training camp MayorsManorThe world may indeed be getting smaller everyday thanks to the internet, cell phones and other technological advances. But, when you’re a General Manager in the National Hockey League and your number one center goes down with a knee injury 5,000 miles away – during a period where you’re prevented from talking to him – words likely can’t begin to express the frustration and angst that’s created.

And while there’s never a good time for an athlete to be injured, this one probably came at both the best and worst time for Anze Kopitar and Dean Lombardi.

The best because the NHL and NHLPA reached an understanding on the CBA just hours after Kopitar left the ice in Sweden. So, Lombardi was about to get full access to the medical reports and his player was coming back to LA on the next available flight. Had it taken place in October, the Kings front office wouldn’t have been privy to all the same information.

The lockout ending also made it horrible timing. Everything was about to move in hyper mode and the league would look to start back up again as soon as possible. Once so proud of the fact he was the first GM in history to bring back his entire Stanley Cup team, Lombardi was now facing the thought of games being played without his leading points producer.

Nerves quickly calmed late last week though when Kopitar arrived for training camp and Lombardi had a chance to look at the MRI results. As originally reported in Sweden, his expected recovery time from the Grade 2 MCL sprain was about two to three weeks.

With the injury taking place on January 5, two weeks to the day would be this Saturday – game one for the LA Kings.

Many were encouraged when Kopitar, fitted with a new knee brace, took to the ice a few days ago. He immediately reported no problems or pain – and remarked that he actually felt better than what he was expecting.

Although still not cleared for contact, he’s been participating in drills with his teammates and today centered a line of Tyler Toffoli and Anthony Stewart during the team’s one hour practice.

“I’m feeling pretty normal right now,” he told MayorsManor after returning to the locker room. “It’s starting to get a little more comfortable with the brace.”

Knowing that it might have just been adrenaline that had him feeling good after he resumed skating on Monday, today brought reassurances that things are moving in the right direction.

“It’s been progressing really. I haven’t had any pain,” said the 25-year old center. “The last two days I’ve been skating with the team and I didn’t have any swelling – no pain, no soreness. So, it’s pretty encouraging right now.”

In a normal season, maybe you wouldn’t rush back. In the middle of the season, you’d most likely take an extra game or two, leaning on the side of caution. But, in a 48-game season, where every night is almost like a four-point game – and when the Kings will raise a new banner on opening night – how important is it for him to be in the line-up vs. the Blackhawks on Saturday?

“It would certainly be nice,” Kopitar shared. “It’s one of those games that you definitely want to be a part of. Right now the doors are not completely shut, but me Chris (Kingsley – head trainer), Darryl (Sutter), everybody in here – we just want to be cautious.  I mean, I’d rather play 46 or 47 games than play on Saturday and tweak it and have another two weeks where I have to rehab again and pretty much be back to square one.”

Don’t write him off just yet though. Kopitar later said that he felt “strong” after getting bumped a few times during practice.  “I’m not concerned about my stability.”

Time is running out if he wants to be ready right out of the gate, as tomorrow will be the team’s last full practice before the big game on Saturday.

“I think I’m on the right track.”

Now we just need to know if that train makes a stop at Staples Center or if it’s an express rail that runs directly to Colorado or Edmonton – where the Kings will play next week.

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About John Hoven

John Hoven is a member of the of the Professional Hockey Writers Association and co-hosts Kings of the Podcast. He is also the founder and editor of MayorsManor.com, which has been named Best Sports Blog in Los Angeles by LA Weekly and Hockey Blog of the Year by Yahoo Sports. Click "ABOUT OUR TEAM" above for a full bio.

Comments

  1. Thanks for the encouraging update.