Anze Kopitar (Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)
The Los Angeles Kings are in a battle to keep their spot atop the Pacific Division and Anze Kopitar’s lower-body injury isn’t going to make life any easier. Kopitar, the Kings’ leading scorer, is day-to-day.
At the start of January, the Los Angeles Kings had a 10-point lead atop the Pacific Division and looked as if they were nearly a lock to finish the season as the division’s top seed. But that was before the Anaheim Ducks got red hot, the San Jose Sharks stayed consistent and the Kings started to play .500 hockey.
Since Jan. 1, the Kings, who have lost three straight, are 8-9-2 and their lead atop the Pacific has gone from 10 points to two — and it could be as low as one after the Sharks, who have a game in hand, take on Carolina Friday evening. And if the race for top seed in the Pacific wasn’t tough enough for the Kings right now, they’re going to have to fend off Anaheim and San Jose without the services of star center Anze Kopitar for what looks like could be a game or two.
According to LAKingsInsider.com’s Jon Rosen, the Kings have listed Kopitar as day-to-day with a lower-body injury. And, Rosen writes, it’s unlikely there’s more learned about the injury before he gets back into the lineup, as coach Darryl Sutter tends to play these things close to the vest.
Kopitar’s injury was suffered in the first period of Thursday’s game agains the St. Louis Blues, although the circumstances which caused the injury are uncertain. Per NHL.com, Kopitar was only hit once in the contest and he took several shifts afterward. His final shift of the first frame ended with 38 seconds left in the period, but he didn’t come out for the start of the second.
Kopitar, 28, hasn’t missed any of the Kings’ games this season and is the team’s leading scorer by a wide margin. In 57 games, he has 17 goals and 51 points while averaging the highest ice time, 20:48, of any forward in Los Angeles. None of this is to mention Kopitar’s two-way ability. He’s one of the best defensive centers in the game.
Thursday night, Kopitar’s injury threw a wrench in the Kings’ lines, causing Sutter to mix and match players to find a fit. Kopitar’s linemates in the first, Dustin Brown and Milan Lucic, were spread out, with Lucic skating the remainder of the game on the top line with Tyler Toffoli and Jeff Carter. Brown took second-line shifts with Vincent Lecavalier and Kyle Clifford.
The injury to Kopitar, especially if it causes him to miss more than a few games, hurts even more considering the Kings’ recent loss of Marian Gaborik. Kopitar and Gaborik combined have scored 29 of Los Angeles’ 155 goals this season.