Mar 26, 2011, 6:43 PM EST
While the Kings were able to take out Colorado with a 4-1 win, it was perhaps the least happy win in Los Angeles all season long as the Kings have lost team leading scorer for some time.
Anze Kopitar went into the corner to battle Ryan O’Byrne and caught a rut going into the corner forcing Kopitar down to the ice. Kopitar’s leg rolled up underneath him as he went down and down he stayed. Kopitar was helped off the ice and the Kings stated that he was out of the game with a lower body injury.
As it turns out, the outcome is a broken ankle for Kopitar. He’ll be out a minimum of six weeks which means the Kings have to make a deep run in the playoffs for him to see the ice again this season. With just two weeks left in the season and the playoffs taking as long as they do, the soonest you can hope for Kopitar to return would seem like the Western Conference final.
For now, the Kings will need guys like Dustin Brown and Ryan Smyth to step up and produce more offense while Jarrett Stoll will likely ascend to the role of the team’s top center. You wonder if the team is wondering why they sent Brayden Schenn back to junior hockey right about now. The Kings are now dealing with two tough offensive blows late in the year as Justin Williams is also out for a few weeks with a dislocated shoulder. Kings coach Terry Murray says this is as big a time as any for the team to step up big.
“He’s your top player, your top forward. There’s quite a hole that’s going to be there now, with him out of the lineup for this length of time. But I’ve been through these kinds of things before, with top guys being out because of injuries. It’s an opportunity. Other guys step up. The character of the team needs to step up. Everybody needs to do the right things and, just talking about the way we finished up the game in the third period, that’s critical now. You’ve got to trust your structure and your system and give it the best opportunity you can, as a group now, to finish games off and play the right way.”
Defense is all well and good in the playoffs, but you need the goals too and no one’s been better in L.A. at generating them than Kopitar. Their playoff and Stanley Cup hopes will depend upon how well the rest of the team can rally around each other for the next six weeks while Kopitar is gone.
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