Vincent Lecavalier and his distinguished career were stagnating in Philadelphia five months ago.
The 35-year-old with more than 400 goals, 1,200 games played and a Stanley Cup ring on his resume couldn't crack the lineup with the Philadelphia Flyers. After a Jan. 6 trade to the Los Angeles Kings, he and his game were rejuvenated. With three goals in his first six games with the Kings, Lecavalier became quite a story.
"I really didn't know what to expect or what was going to happen when I was in Philly," Lecavalier said. "I was hoping [it would turn out well]. And being here, this is a great opportunity. It's been a lot of fun."
This time of year is why the Kings acquired Lecavalier and defenseman Luke Schenn from the Flyers for Jordan Weal and a third-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft. Lecavalier has solidified the Kings down the middle as their third-line center, given them another solid faceoff man and someone with a history of scoring in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Teammate Milan Lucic remembers Lecavalier from the 2011 Eastern Conference Final, when Lucic was with the Boston Bruins and Lecavalier was with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Boston won in seven games, but Lecavalier had eight points in the series, including a one-goal, three-assist performance in Game 2.
Lecavalier has 25 goals and 29 assists in 70 career playoff games.
"He's always been able to score," Lucic said. "You just don't lose that. You always have that in you when you have that type of skill and you have that type of scoring mentality. You see him come here and contribute the way he has … it's definitely lifted a lot of guys as far as playing with energy, seeing him and wanting to win and wanting to contribute to the team."
Lucic thinks it's Lecavalier's faceoff prowess (50.8 percent this season) that will help the Kings the most. It's another aspect of his game that helped Los Angeles, which had to slot young forwards into bigger roles than it would have liked earlier this season.
Lecavalier averaged nearly five more minutes of ice time with the Kings than in his seven games with the Flyers this season. His impact has gone beyond the ice as he has fit well into the Kings' dressing room.
"You need him to be big on the ice," Schenn said. "But to add another veteran presence like that in the locker room who's been there before, and a guy that guys kind of look up to a little bit, I think is another underrated thing about him."
This is the last go-around for Lecavalier, who is expected to retire at the end of the season. He turns 36 on April 21.
"I'm not getting any younger," he said. "I feel good. That's all that matters."