NEWARK, NJ -- Simon Gagne is hoping to make his presence felt in the Stanley Cup Finals.
The 32-year-old winger has been out since just after Christmas with a concussion suffered against the Phoenix Coyotes. Hes experienced major troubles returning from concussions in the past, but Gagne has resumed practicing with the team and says he feels good.
The winger said during Tuesdays Stanley Cup Finals media day that he wouldnt return to action unless he was 100 percent after the complications in 2007-08.
With those types of head injuries I had never really waited until I was 100 percent before, said Gagne. This time I did that. I stayed in LA the whole time and I never lost the feeling for the team.
Gagne has been cleared for a possible return, but its hard to envision him displacing somebody in a playoff-tuned Kings lineup. Its the same combination of LA hockey players thats needed only 14 games to pillage their way through the Western Conference.
Every hockey player wants to play. Its difficult to sit out, said LA assistant coach John Stevens. Hes worked hard and got himself back physically where he needs to be. Hes really close to being available if it gets down to that. Simon has had a lot of success and hes been at this point before without having success.
Im sure hes anxious to get in there and play, but more than anything hockey players want to help their team win. To his credit every day hes becoming a better player and more ready to play. Thats what he needs to do.
Gagne cleared all of the concussion testing two weeks ago, and he says there are plenty of positives for his return to the Kings lineup. Gagne is something of an NHL good luck charm as he was in the Cup Finals two years ago as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers, and made it Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals last year with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
But a successful return to game action could be difficult. New York Rangers forward Brian Boyle likened trying to return to playoff intensity after a concussion to trying to jump on a speeding train.
The speed of the game is always maxed out when two teams stand just four wins away from hoisting the Cup. Gagne understands all this, and said he knows what to expect after previously experiencing the playoff line of fire.
For sure there will be some adaptation to it. I felt good in practice and I felt good shooting the puck, said Gagne, who missed 48 games this season with injuries. I feel good one-on-one, but playing in a game is a totally different situation.
I think the plus on my side is that I know the level that the game is going to be. Two years and even last year losing Game 7 in the conference finals: its still so fresh in my mind. I think I could put myself into it really quick. Having that experience will help, and at this point in the season not a lot of guys are 100 percenteven mentally or physically. Some guys are very tired from playing so many games in such a short time. Im 100 percent and Im fresh, so thats a plus on my side.
So which tired forward is Gagne looking to edge out of the lineup in the playoffs?
Dustin Penner and rookie Dwight King have both been outstanding on the left wing in the postseason, and it might just take an injury during the Cup Finals to open the door for Gagnes triumphant return.
But its a testament to the Kings depth that a guy thats scored almost 300 career goals stands as the first man into the breach for Los Angeles when injuries arrive. Gagne is ready to step in when hes needed.