Stanley Cup Finals 2012: Kings Get Simon Gagne Back for Game 3

Brad KurtzbergContributor IJune 4, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 26:  Simon Gagne #12 of the Los Angeles Kings plays the puck through the neutral zone during the NHL game against the Phoenix Coyotes at Staples Center on December 26, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. The Kings defeated the Coyotes 4-3.  (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)
Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

It's been a long time since the Los Angeles Kings had forward Simon Gagne in their lineup—the day after Christmas to be exact.

Gagne has been out of the lineup since then with a concussion but he will return to action for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final tonight against the New Jersey Devils while Brad Richardson will be a scratch, according to Yahoo!Sports.

Don't expect Gagne to play a lot of minutes tonight. After all, it's been more than five months since the 32-year-old Quebec native has played in a competitive game. He is also replacing a fourth line forward in Richardson and most likely will play fourth line minutes.

But there is one area Gagne's return may make a big difference for the Kings—the power play. Despite their incredible 14-2 postseason run, Los Angeles has been dreadful with the man advantage in the playoffs, converting just six times in 77 opportunities.

Gagne has four NHL seasons of 30 goals or more, and twice he has topped the 40-goal mark in a season. He has always been productive on the power play, scoring 79 goals and adding 187 points during his career.

Gagne is not known for his physical style of play and even if he was, it is doubtful he will play a hard-hitting style in his first game back after a concussion. But he knows how to create space on the ice by getting between defenders and that can certainly help the Kings.

He also adds valuable experience to the home team's lineup tonight. This is the second time in three years Gagne has played in the Stanley Cup Final, having been with the Flyers in 2010. Last season, he reached the Eastern Conference Final with Tampa Bay.

We probably can't expect a lot out of Gagne given the circumstances, but in a series where both games have been settled in overtime, a key goal at the right time could make a difference for the Kings. Gagne's return will also give the Kings an emotional lift and some valuable experience as they attempt to win their first Stanley Cup since the Los Angeles joined the NHL back in 1967.