In case you missed it earlier today, the Los Angeles Kings have activated Simon Gagne for tonight’s game three tilt with the Devils in LA.
Simon Gagne will play tonight for Kings. First game since december 26.
— Renaud P Lavoie (@RenLavoieRDS) June 4, 2012
Now, it appears as though Gagne will be replacing Brad Richardson on the Kings’ fourth line which is a bit of a curious swap. Richardson has been hurt recently though, and it could be as simple as an injury replacement. It wouldn’t necessarily make sense to have a player who hasn’t played since December 2011 replace a guy who has put in useful minutes on the back of the depth chart.
In many ways, the move puts the Kings at odds with what has got them to this point in the post-season — pure physical domination — as Ken Campbell of The Hockey News points out.
… with Colin Fraser flanked by Richardson and Jordan Nolan, the Kings fourth unit uses its size and tenacity to create loose pucks. It gives the Kings a huge advantage in terms of physical play, the way it did when Nolan knocked Devils defenseman Andy Greene off the puck and set Fraser up for the first goal in Game 1. In fact, you could argue that goal set the tone for the series.
It’s doubtful that Gagne, with all his experience and offensive talent, is going to provide the Kings with that kind of physical presence. And since he hasn’t played a game in five months, will he be able to provide the 11:37 and 10:56 of solid ice time that Richardson gave the Kings in the first two games of the final?
If it is the result of a Richardson injury, fine, but if it’s a simple ‘gut feeling’ or the desire to get Gagne some time in the final, it’s a head scratcher.
Simon Gagne is a fine hockey player, regardless of how injury prone he is, and certainly has the potential to make an impact on the scoresheet. His slot over top of Richardson who plays a much different game is curious, but the depth chart is not set in stone. It wouldn’t shock me at all if he was flipped with Dwight King at some point in the night as King provides a more physically imposing presence and Gagne’s skillset is more in line with that of Jarret Stoll who centers the third unit.
It’s a luxury for a team that has steamrolled through the playoffs to this point to plug in a guy with 37 playoff goals into the lineup, but it could be a move which throws the wrench in the gears.