Despite Reports To The Contrary, Anze Kopitar Appears Ready For Action In Saturday’s Home Opener Against The Chicago Blackhawks
By Paul Armbruster | KingsNewsDaily.com
Anze Kopitar participated in his second day of full practice despite still being considered a “non-contact” participant as he continues to rehabilitate his sprained knee. Despite the official position on his status, he did not wear a ‘no contact’ jersey and did, indeed, receive plenty of contact in today’s practice (see video below).
The question still remains: Will he be in the starting lineup come Saturday’s home opener versus Chicago? In today’s practice he skated on the ‘5th line’ with Tyler Toffoli and Anthony Stewart instead of the 1st line, which on the surface would be an indicator toward no. It was also reported that he is ‘doubtful’ for Saturday, but that is not the whole story.
Yesterday, in a split squad practice, Kopitar was on the ice well before and after skating hard for about 1 1/2 hours. Cut to today, he was right back at it AND pushing even harder, taking contact on numerous occasions. Those two hard practices, coupled with statements by Kopitar indicating no soreness or swelling in his knee, would appear to still leave the door open for his inclusion on ‘banner raising day’ where Kopitar would surely want to be a part pre-game festivities as the Kings officially put their first-ever Stanley Cup win behind (and above) them as they lift their championship banner into the Staples Center rafters.
Kopitar’s uncertain status may also make General Manager Dean Lombardi’s job a little tougher as he has to make roster cuts. It has already been reported that two Kings prospects will be headed back to their AHL affiliate. Defenseman Andrew Bodnarchuk (on waivers) and forward Tyler Toffoli will likely resume their duties with the Manchester Monarchs. That leaves Jake Muzzin with a roster spot as the likely “7th” defenseman in place of Davis Drewiske who will start in place of injured Willie Mitchell. Mitchell will likely be placed on IR (injured reserve), which would leave 24 players on the Kings roster – one over the max of 23.
This brings us back to Anze Kopitar. If Kopitar doesn’t play, he may also be placed on IR, which would temporarily make Lombardi’s job easier. If Kopitar does play, one player would need to be cut. Conventional wisdom would suggest that either Stewart, Clifford, Nolan or Richardson would be the odd-man out. I’m not 100% certain but I believe everyone except Nolan needs to clear waivers (and possibly get taken by another team like Hickey) before being sent down to Manchester.
If Nolan is indeed waiver exempt, then that may sway Lombardi’s decision to send him down and not risk losing another asset. Richardson’s role would appear secure as he was slotted on the top line today in practice, not to mention his versatility to move up and down lines as needed. Nolan and Clifford have been skating on the 4th line all week, which makes it appear their positions are secure as well, despite Stewart’s superior experience. My guess then is that Kopitar will play Saturday and Stewart gets waived.
Video clips from practice, Thursday, January 17th 2013