Since their season ended last spring, arguably the biggest question facing the Los Angeles Kings this past summer has been the status of Anze Kopitar. Nevermind how he would fare once he returned from injury but, first and foremost, if he would be ready for the beginning of the regular season.
To the delight of all Kings fans, Kopitar made great progress over the summer and was deemed ready to go when the team's training camp got under way last month. As great as it is to have Kopitar back on the ice, it's even better knowing how well he's been playing since he's been back.
In Los Angeles' two regular season games so far, Anze Kopitar already has three goals - two of which are highlight-reel markers while the other came on the power play. Certainly not a bad way to return to the lineup after spending months recuperating from a broken ankle.
When it came to Anze Kopitar, the questionsw of whether he will come back and produce at the same level have now turned into how many points will Kopitar rack up this season. It's so far, so good for #11 but let's not forget that there are still 80 games remaining in the season. While that is a lot of time, the Kings haven't even played a divisional or conference opponent yet, a home game or even a game on North American soil.
Am I suggesting that Kopitar's performance the first two games was a fluke? Of course not. When it comes to Kopitar putting points on the board, there's no such thing as a fluke. After all, since his rookie season of 2006-07, the Los Angeles Kings and their fans have come to expect this from the Slovenian, regardless how good or bad their team is doing.
To have Anze Kopitar resume his playing career certainly is a shot in the arm but it certainly isn't enough to see him on the ice and be content. As the cornerstone of the franchise, Anze Kopitar was meant to produce and that's just what he's doing.
It may seem unfair to put Kopitar on the highest of pedestals after just two games but his performance in Europe is certainly a sign of things to come. The Los Angeles Kings have reached a point where they can count on contributions for at least three of their forward lines and at least half of their defensemen on a regular basis. However, those contributions won't mean as much if their #11 isn't on the ice helping out in one way or another.
Should we expect Anze Kopitar to get on the scoresheet for the remaining 80 regular season games? AS ideal as that would be, no. But Anze Kopitar will contribute to his team's success as he has been doing the last five seasons. He's proved he can do it since he's been a King - so why would this season be any different?
Photo: Courtesy of LA PRESSE CANADIENNE, archives