It took a while, but you (or at least the majority of you) got what you wanted: Wayne Simmonds as the first-line right winger. Simmonds, who has 10 goals and 14 assists this season, will play alongside Anze Kopitar and Ryan Smyth tomorrow night against the Ducks.
When Justin Williams was out, in late October, Simmonds filled that spot for five games, and now he’s back. Here’s what Simmonds and, below, Terry Murray, had to say about Simmonds on the first line…
Question: The fact that you played with Kopitar and Smyth before, what can you take from that to help you now?
SIMMONDS: “It’s going to be an easier transition, obviously, because I played with them once before, and I think it will be smooth. I know how both of them play, and hopefully I can just add what I bring to the line.”
Question: What particular skills do you think you can bring to that line, in order to help them score more, perhaps?
SIMMONDS: “I think I can give them space. I’m normally the first guy on the puck. I get in there, I bang, I crash, I try to get loose pucks, and I think if I do that for them, and get pucks out to them and draw two guys to me, those guys have great hands and they’re great playmakers and scorers, and they can make plays.”
Question: You guys get moved around quite a bit. At this point, are you equally comfortable playing with anyone on the team?
SIMMONDS: “That’s the way it seems like it’s been lately. I’m comfortable playing with anyone on this team. I think for the first year, and the first few games here, I was with Zeus. After that, I’ve played with Richie, I’ve played with Stolly, I’ve played with Kopi… I’ve played, pretty much, on every line, and I feel comfortable in any role that Terry puts me in.”
Question: How is the knee doing?
SIMMONDS: “It’s great. Day after day, it gets better. It’s probably never going to be exactly the same, but I’m just adapting to how it feels. I’m getting used to it, I’m adapting to it, and it feels good. It’s not preventing me from doing anything.”
Question: When you say it’s never going to be exactly the same, is that a strength issue?
SIMMONDS: “Well, I had surgery and they took those little pieces out, so obviously it’s not going to be the same, in that sense. But I’ve still got all my speed and my strength, so I’m fine with it.”
Here’s what Murray said about moving Simmonds up to the first line…
MURRAY: “It’s a chance for him to be able to participate in that skill mindset and, at the same time, bring some grit to the line. I think he’s a player who has shown, in the past, (the ability) to get pretty involved in the physical side of it. If there’s anything going on, he needs to be a player who jumps in and helps out.
“And also … he jumps into the flow. He’s strong on the boards. He can make little plays down in the offensive zone, with the give-and-gos, and I liked what he did when I put him up there, three of the five games before. I thought he jumped in and did a real fine job.”
Murray also said he had no concerns about Simmonds’ knee.
MURRAY: “No, he’s good. He’s doing everything now. It’s not a conversation that I had with him. `Are you OK? Are you feeling it?’ Just watching him play, I’m seeing a different body language out there. There’s no hesitation and he’s back to, in my mind, 100 percent.”