The Los Angeles Kings' greatest advantage during a lockout-shortened season in 2013 was supposed to be the return of nearly the exact roster that won them the 2012 Stanley Cup. The condensed season and shortened training camp was supposed to play into their hands, providing little time for other teams to build the same continuity and chemistry that the Kings already had. Well, that advantage seems to be dwindling in a hurry. TSN's Bob McKenzie is reporting that Kings defenseman Matt Greene will be out at least two months, and possibly for the remainder of the season, after suffering a back injury in Saturday's 5-2 season opening loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Kings are already thin on defense, with blueliner Willie Mitchell still recovering from December knee surgery. Mitchell was originally expected to be ready sooner, but after suffering a setback during his recovery, the timetable for a return became uncertain. The team had also been without their first-line center, Anze Kopitar, for the duration of training camp, and for the first game of the 2013 season. Kopitar confirmed today that he will be back in the lineup for Tuesday night's road game against the Colorado Avalanche.
Greene will be a difficult piece for the team to try and replace, not only because of the physical and tenacious nature of his game, but also because of the leadership qualities he brings to the ice. The 6-4, 235 pound defenseman serves as one of the Kings' alternate captains, providing guidance to his teammates, by way of hard work and dedication to his craft. Mitchell and Greene are the two biggest bodies on defense for the Kings, and with both players out of the lineup, the team will be short on size on the blue line.
After placing Greene on the injured reserve list, the Kings recalled defenseman Andrew Bodnarchuk from their minor league affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs. The 24-year-old Bodnarchuk is 5-11, 185 pounds, and has played in a grand total of 5 NHL games. Davis Drewiske, a 28 year-old defenseman, took Mitchell's spot on the ice in Saturday's loss. The Kings also have Jake Muzzin currently on their roster, who will likely be called upon to help fill the void left by their latest injured defenseman. At 6-2, 215 pounds, Muzzin would add some bulk to a lineup presently short on sizeable defensemen. But at 23 years of age, he has similar inexperience to Bodnarchuk, with only 11 NHL games under his belt.
Greene played hard, as usual, in Saturday's game, recording six hits in 18:01 of ice time. The Michigan native's physical play likely makes him more susceptible to injury, yet he has managed to stay fairly healthy in his four full seasons in Los Angeles, prior to the start of 2013. Greene has registered 238 or more hits in each of the last three seasons (since hits became an official stat in 2009), while missing only a handful of games.
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