So what to make of the news that 32-year-old Simon Gagne will likely return to the Los Angeles Kings’ lineup for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final against the New Jersey Devils?
It means, for starters, that Gagne now has a chance to get his name on the Stanley Cup after playing just 37 regular-season games for the Kings this season, before a concussion on Dec. 26 knocked him out of the lineup.
Gagne is one of the Kings’ most experienced playoff performers, with 59 points in 105 previous games. He made it to the final with the 2010 Philadelphia Flyers, and to the semifinals last year with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
But Gagne has played very little for Kings’ coach Darryl Sutter, who is notoriously slow to make line-up changes at any point, and especially when things are going as well as they are for Los Angeles, now 14-2 in the playoffs and only two victories away from the first Stanley Cup in team history.
Gagne is expected to replace Brad Richardson, according to the Los Angeles Times. Richardson is averaging just a little more than eight minutes in playing time in 13 playoff games thus far and has had a minimal playoff impact, possibly because he was unavailable at the start of the post-season, recovering from an emergency appendectomy.
Gagne had 17 points in 34 regular-season games for the Kings, mostly playing for former coach Terry Murray, and likely could be more of a scoring factor than Richardson, from the fourth line. He also has 79 regular-season power-play goals in 761 career games and scored timely goals for the Flyers en route to an unexpected comeback in the 2010 playoffs versus the Boston Bruins. After falling behind 3-0 in the series, Philadelphia roared back to win four consecutive games.
Gagne was signed by the Kings as an unrestricted free agent last July.
In an interview with The Globe And Mail prior to the start of the Stanley Cup final, Gagne reported that he’d been given medical clearance to play and felt good; and that his career was back on track. At the time, Sutter would say only that Gagne was available to play, if needed.
"From March on, I’ve been skating every day," said Gagne, "but it’s one thing practising by yourself. When I jumped on the ice with the guys, I started to feel really good. This was the point where I did the step the doctor was asking us to do and pushing yourself every day. From there, if everything is good, you do your base line test. After that, it’s contact - and I did that - and game situations, we did all that and I was still feeling good. So right now, I’m all cleared."
"I’m with the team, right to the end."