Anze Kopitar, who has proven to be among the most durable players not only on the Kings but across the NHL, is expected to play against the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight only two days after leaving a win over the Blues after weathering a blow to the right side of his head from St. Louis forward Ryan Reaves.
“Obviously [the hit wasn’t] the best feeling,” he said. “I was lucky that it hasn’t happened to me before. Maybe that’s why the little bigger concern is, just because you don’t know what you’re really dealing with. But I went through all the protocols, what you call it. I feel good, and the tests are good, so I’m good to go for tonight.”
Reaves was fined the maximum amount allowable by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety but was not suspended for the unpenalized hit. Though Kopitar didn’t finish the game, he progressively began feeling better as the team traveled back to Los Angeles.
“I was feeling better shortly after the game, not right after,” he said. “I could feel the progression getting better and the symptoms calmed down, and then yesterday morning when I woke up, I just felt normal. No headache, no pressure, no nothing, and the other thing is I rode the bike for a little bit yesterday too, and everything was good after that. I had a pretty good idea that everything’s back to normal, but obviously, stuff like this, you want to take the longer road and really be cautious about it. Like I said, I’ve done everything in the protocol, and all signs are good.”
Kopitar, who played a franchise-record 330 consecutive games between March 21, 2007 and March 26, 2011, has appeared in 695 of a possible 716 games since the start of the 2006-07 season, his first in the NHL.
The center scored on Monday in Chicago, but hasn’t received a great deal of support from those he’s played with, hence a zero in the helper column. In 12 games this season, Kopitar has four goals and no assists.
“He needs his wingers to start scoring,” Darryl Sutter said. “Whoever we’ve put there have not produced for him.”
Said Kopitar: “It hasn’t happened too often where I have more penalty minutes than assists, so I’ll try to correct that as soon as I can.”
Anze Kopitar, on what he recalls of the play:
Well, it was right to the right side of the head. I mean, you guys saw it on the replay. It was pretty noticeable. It happened quick, so I’d like to think that he didn’t do it on purpose, obviously. But it is what it is now. The bottom line is that I’m feeling good now, and that’s obviously the best thing for me. [Reporter: Was it an elbow, butt end or forearm? It was hard to tel on the video.] I couldn’t tell you.
Kopitar, on the team’s play since an 0-3 start:
Obviously I think we’ve picked it up. Couldn’t really tell you there. You can’t really point to one thing in the first three games with what went wrong. I know it’s a cliché, but it’s always nice to get the first win as soon as you can, and then you kind of just get that one out of the way and then start rolling. Unfortunately it took us four games to get that done, but since then I thought we’ve been playing some obviously good hockey. Jeff’s line has been carrying us pretty much the whole time, which is really nice, but now it’s about that time where everybody else chips in so we can really get the train going again.
Kyle Clifford, on whether the Blue Jackets are a “similar” team to the Kings:
Yeah, they’re a big hard-working team. We know what they’re going to bring. They have a lot of work in their game, they’ve got skill and big guys who’re going to play physical, so we’ve got to match that and bring our big, physical game as well.
Clifford, on whether the hard games between the teams represent a “rivalry”:
Yeah, when two big teams go at it, you get a little bit of a rivalry. But at the end of the day, we’re competing for two points, and both teams need ‘em, so it’s going to be a battle.
Clifford, on the travel and compacted schedule:
That’s part of being a professional. It’s taking it one game at a time, and when we’re not practicing a lot, you’ve got to be sharp and be ready for the game. I think that our team will take this and get ready for tonight and be ready to fight for two points.
Clifford, on the types of games against John Tortorella-coached teams:
It’s going to be aggressive, it’s going to be a workman’s game. We’re going to need all 20 guys here and be ready for puck drop.