EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) — Simon Gagne thought the Los Angeles Kings would be a Stanley Cup contender. That's why he signed with them as a free agent last summer.
Gagne's projection was correct. He just wishes he had played a bigger role in making it happen.
Gagne returned to practice with the Kings on Friday as they went through their first full workout since clinching a spot in the Stanley Cup final. The high-scoring veteran left wing hasn't played for the Kings since Dec. 26, when he suffered his latest concussion in a win over Phoenix.
Although the seven-time 20-goal scorer is cleared for contact and says he's 100 percent symptom-free, even Gagne isn't sure he should be added back to the Kings' lineup for the final round.
"I'm available, but at the same time, you have to look at what this team has done," Gagne said. "They've played a lot of good hockey. They're the reason why we're here now. I'm just going to work hard in practice, like I did the last month, and we'll see. You never know what can happen in the final."
Gagne wore a green jersey at Friday's practice, doing drills on a line with youngsters Marc-Andre Cliche and Andrei Loktionov. He relished the chance to work out with veterans including former Flyers teammate Justin Williams, who says his French language skills have suffered during Gagne's absence from their adjoining lockers at the Kings' training complex.
"Well, we're still playing, so he got an opportunity to practice with us," said coach Darryl Sutter, who took over the Kings just three games before Gagne's injury. "You need lots of live ammo. ... Somebody asked (about Gagne's availability) a week or so ago, and there was no chance then, because he hadn't even skated with the team. All you do is improve your (chances). You go from zero to whatever."
Gagne has watched from the stands as Los Angeles rampaged through the Western Conference playoffs without him, winning 12 of 14 games during one of the most impressive postseason runs in recent NHL history. He has ample playoff experience, reaching the Stanley Cup final with Philadelphia — and current Kings teammates Mike Richards and Jeff Carter — in 2010 before getting to the Eastern Conference finals with the Tampa Bay Lightning last season.