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'Mo' Gas in the Tank

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
He's done.

Highlights | Modin on XM Radio/NHL Network

Fredrik Modin has tallied 3-1=4 in six games with the Kings, 2-4=6 in 24 games with the Blue Jackets.
That is, arguably, the phrase most hated by a professional athlete. It suggests an end. It infers that a player, no matter how hard he works, no matter how bad he wants it, just doesn't have what it takes to play at a high level anymore.

Fredrik Modin, no doubt, heard those words, even if they were only whispers behind his back. At age 35, four years removed from his last truly strong season, an injury-prone Modin put forth little to suggest that his critics were wrong about him.

The Kings, though, gave Modin one last chance. So far, he's taking advantage.

Acquired just before this month's trade deadline from Columbus, possibly for nothing, Modin has thrived with the Kings so far. He has three goals in six games entering Thursday's game against Chicago at STAPLES Center.

"I know I'm getting older, but I still think I can play the game," Modin said. "I personally feel that what's been holding me back is my injuries, from being able to play the amount of games that I've been wanted. When I have been healthy, getting back, it's been a very tight schedule. It's basically games every other day, so it's kind of tough to get the time to catch up on everything.

"But as a player, you do have confidence in what you can do. I'm just very, very happy for the opportunity I've gotten here, and the chance to play."

Modin, if he continues his strong play, has a chance to fill many holes for the Kings. He's strong at both ends. He plays on both special teams. He brings size, toughness and experience and knows what it's like to hoist the Stanley Cup.

So why, then, was a player will that much value available for essentially nothing? Because many league followers believed there was no gas left in his tank.

In his 14th NHL season, Modin is a two-time 30-goal scorer, and in 2003-04, he scored 29 regular-season goals to help Tampa Bay win the Stanley Cup.

After that career highlight, though, things went sour quickly for Modin. Since the start of the 2005-06 season, Modin's list of injuries is long and gruesome. It reads: Back, back, groin, back, hamstring, groin, knee, foot, and that doesn't even include the games missed by the mysterious upper- and lower-body injuries.

The talent was still there, as Modin scored 31 goals in 2005-06 and, after a trade to Columbus, 22 goals with the Blue Jackets in 2006-07, But over the next 2 1/2 seasons Modin appeared in only 97 games because of injuries.

"I think the good thing with him is that it's been severe bruises and some broken bones, stuff like that," Kings coach Terry Murray said. "It's just unfortunate, and knocks you away from playing the game."

When the Kings acquired Modin from Columbus, minutes before the trade deadline in exchange for a conditional seventh-round draft pick, little was made of the move.

Columbus was apparently quite eager to get rid of Modin, so eager that they won't even receive that seventh-round pick unless the Kings win the Stanley Cup.

The notice the trade did receive was mostly mocking. One prominent blogger dissected the trade by concluding that the Kings "apparently think it's 2004." Stinging, but who could argue? Modin had two goals in 24 games this season.

Then, something funny happened. Modin started playing well. Very well.

Continue to Part II.

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