Defenseman Matt Greene could give the Los Angeles Kings a huge lift by coming back from back injury.
Greene is an outstanding penalty killer. He sets a tone with his physical play and he helps maintain order in the defensive zone.
But Greene hasn’t been cleared for contact, so he has been relegated to skating off to the side while continuing his recovery. Time is running out for him to get back into the Kings’ mix.
If Greene can’t return to duty before the end of the regular season, coach Darryl Sutter would be unlikely to deploy him during the playoffs.
“Quite honestly, if he's not ready to play three or four games and if we made the playoffs, I'd have trouble putting him in, for sure,” Sutter told the Los Angeles Daily News. “He's only played a few minutes all year. It's not about what you did, it's about what you're doing.
“It's very simple. He's going to have to play three or four games. Otherwise, I would not be comfortable with it. You're not going to have a guy who can just play a handful of minutes. Greene's specialty is he's a physical player and he's a good penalty-killer.
“A lot of it is conditioning. Until he gets contact and we're kind of in the let's-get-going mode . . . otherwise, he's going to have trouble. He hasn't been cleared for any of that.”
The Los Angeles Kings stumbled to a 0-2-1 start this season, their worst since 2001-02.
So what is wrong with the defending Stanley Cup champions? Plenty, as you can see:
Injuries hit this team hard. No.1 center Anze Kopitar (no points, minus-2 rating in two games) is still trying to get his legs back after suffering a knee injury playing in Europe. Defenseman Matt Greene suffered a season-ending back injuries and defenseman Willie Mitchell has been sidelined by a knee injury.
The Kings have yet to score a power-play goal this season. Against all odds, they went 0-for-8 against the Oilers while suffering a 2-1 overtime loss in Edmonton. At least Los Angeles hits some posts in that game. “I guess it's a good thing we're getting our chances,” defenseman Drew Doughty told the Los Angeles Times. “But at the same time, I think we can be getting more chances. We've just got to bear down and score. We can't use the bounces going the wrong way as an excuse.”
The top Los Angeles forwards need to get going at even strength, too. Mike Richards has no points and a minus-3 rating after three games. Dustin Brown has no points and a minus-5 rating in three games. Dustin Penner (no points, minus-2 rating in two games) was a healthy scratch for the game in Edmonton after starting the season sluggishly.
Coach Darryl Sutter is hoping for a stronger overall showing today in Phoenix. He will take another look at veteran winger Simon Gagne, who will play on a line with Colin Fraser and Jordan Nolan.
“I liked our game in Edmonton,” he told the Los Angeles Kings Insider. “I liked it for the most part in Colorado, so that means we should be getting there. We got a really young defense and we need the pace of our forwards to be a hell of a lot better to help them out. It’s not hard to figure out. It’s nothing more than that.”
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