Kings winger Simon Gagne returns from concussion
BY ADAM L. JAHNS email@example.com June 5, 2012 10:47PM
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 04: Anton Volchenkov #28 and Bryce Salvador #24 of the New Jersey Devils defend Simon Gagne #12 of the Los Angeles Kings as goaltender Martin Brodeur #30 of the New Jersey Devils looks to make a save during Game Three of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final at Staples Center on June 4, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. The Kings defeated the Devils 4-0. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
STANLEY CUP FINALS
KINGS VS. DEVILS
Kings lead series 3-0
All games at 7 p.m.
Game 1: Kings 2, at Devils 1 (OT)
Game 2: Kings 2, at Devils 1 (OT)
Game 3: at Kings 4, Devils 0
Wednesday: at Kings, NBCSN
x-Saturday: at Devils, Ch. 5
x-Monday: at Kings, Ch. 5
x-June 13: at Devils, Ch. 5
x- if necessary
Updated: July 7, 2012 8:49AM
LOS ANGELES — There was a moment in Game 3 in which Los Angeles Kings winger Simon Gagne had a New Jersey Devil lined up for what could’ve been a big hit along the half-boards.
Just when he was poised to strike, Gagne turned and followed the puck. In the playoffs, such actions usually are frowned upon by coaches, especially ones as direct and tough-minded as the Kings’ Darryl Sutter.
But you can’t blame Gagne. It was his first game in months after enduring a concussion and having his career come into question.
‘‘I worked hard to get back,” Gagne said after playing 6:39 in his first game since Dec. 26. “To get back on the ice, it’s always good, especially in the Stanley Cup finals. There was no better feeling.”
With a 3-0 series lead, it’s likely the Kings will have their names engraved on the Stanley Cup. After Game 3, Gagne would be guaranteed a spot.
To Gagne, the rewards outweighed any risks, especially when that reward is a once-in-a-lifetime chance. It’s all about the Cup. It’s why players tough out injuries and why they risk more. With a concussion history, Gagne risked a lot.
For so many teams, concussions are big stories. The Kings and Blackhawks, who inevitably will be compared soon enough, are two who’ve had their rosters shaken by serious ones.
Before the finals began, Kings center Mike Richards and defenseman Willie Mitchell discussed their recoveries from concussions. Richards missed eight games in December and said it took him until February to catch up. He looked at his regular season as having to connect twice with his teammates.
“It was just a feeling-out process at the beginning of the year once you’re traded, and then in February after my concussion, you start feeling better on the ice and confident,” Richards said.
After missing 22 games with a concussion, Jonathan Toews’ decision to rest instead of play for Team Canada in the world championships was a smart one.
It’s hoped and expected that Marian Hossa and Steve Montador will be ready for training camp, but there are no guarantees. Even if they return, there are no assurances they’ll be the same, which is particularly sobering for Hossa, who has Hall of Fame credentials.
If they can take anything from the Kings, it’s that patience is best. It took Richards time to regain his form, and Gagne sided with caution before returning. They’re two of three former Flyers (Jeff Carter’s the other) who lost to the Hawks in 2010 but have a chance to win it all.
“I have to say [it’s being] 100 percent, not 95 percent,” Gagne said. “I was maybe 95 percent two months ago, but that was not good enough for me, the doctors and the team. It was something that maybe in the past at 95 percent I was going to come back and play.’’