The sight of Anze Kopitar sprawled on the ice last March was like an uppercut to the stomach. As the 24-year-old center skated toward the bench on one foot, hunched over in obvious pain and dangling his right skate, the Kings could almost hear their momentum seep from Staples Center.
They went on to lose four of their final seven regular season games and dropped to No. 7 in the Western Conference standings. They put up a fight against San Jose in the opening round of the playoffs but ultimately couldn't keep up with the more talented Sharks.
Would the Kings' leading point scorer the last four seasons have made a difference?
That’s arguable, but with Kopitar's presence on both ends of the ice the Sharks definitely would’ve had a tougher time coming back from a 4-0 deficit in Game 3 at Staples Center, allowing them to re-take home-ice advantage and eventually win in six games.
But beneath the rubble of bad breaks that marked the end of last season, Kopitar was able to find one glimmer of light.
“It could have been worse,” Kopitar said of the ankle injury. “It could’ve been my knee and that would’ve still been really bad.”
Kopitar said he’s feeling good heading into the opening day of training camp Saturday at Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo. He returned to his native Slovania in the offseason, where he maintained a rehabilitation regime given to him by the Kings medical staff.
He felt well enough to get back on the golf course for a charity event in June and was skating again by late July. Other than some soreness in the joint caused by post-surgery swelling, Kopitar said he has no limitations.
“The soreness is because everything is squished in the skate,” he said. “Injury wise, everything is healed up and I don’t feel any pain.”
Kopitar is anxious to get started this weekend. The Kings made several key additions up front in the offseason, adding veterans Mike Richards, Simon Gagne, Ethan Moreau and Colin Fraser to an already talented mix of forwards led by Kopitar, who made the All-Star team for a second time last season.
“We all know we have a really good team,” he said. “It’s just a matter of us putting it together and making it happen.”