LOS ANGELES (AP) — Simon Gagne returned to the Los Angeles Kings' lineup for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals on Monday, completing a remarkable comeback from a concussion.
Gagne hadn't played since Dec. 26, when the veteran left wing's career was threatened by his latest head injury. He got a large ovation from the sellout crowd at Staples Center when he was announced in the lineup before the Kings attempted to take a 3-0 series lead on the New Jersey Devils.
Gagne is in his first season with the Kings, who signed the seven-time 20-goal scorer as a free agent. He never got to provide the offensive spark Los Angeles craved, but he still has a chance.
The Kings repeatedly downplayed any notion the 32-year-old Gagne could play in the postseason, but he was cleared for full contact last month. He went through his first full practice with his teammates on May 25, and has been traveling with the team in hopes of helping.
"At this point of my career, you never know, this might be my last chance to taste something like that," Gagne said last Saturday in Newark, N.J. "Playing or not playing, a lot of things happened in my career that I'm glad that I am here and in that position right now."
Even Gagne wasn't certain he should be put back in the Kings' lineup, given the chemistry they've developed during the postseason. Los Angeles won 14 of its first 16 postseason games, including the first two games of the Stanley Cup finals in New Jersey.
But Gagne's scoring ability could be a boon to the Kings' power play, which has been sub-par during Los Angeles' otherwise stellar postseason run. The Kings entered Game 3 at 6 for 77 on the power play in the playoffs, scoring three of those goals during two-man advantages.
Gagne, who is playing in the Stanley Cup finals for the second time in three years, took Brad Richardson's spot in the lineup. The fourth-line forward appeared to struggle at times in the first two games of the series, and Gagne's veteran savvy could be useful alongside the youngsters on the Kings' depth lines.
For the second straight season, a well-liked veteran forward returned to a Stanley Cup contender's lineup during the finals. Vancouver center Manny Malhotra came back from nearly a three-month absence with a career-threatening eye injury for Game 2 of the finals against Boston last June.