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Gagne makes surprising return to Kings' lineup

by Curtis Zupke

LOS ANGELES -- Simon Gagne understandably didn't get much sleep Sunday night.

It's one thing to go back into the Stanley Cup Playoffs after five months away from the ice, and yet another to be thrown into the Stanley Cup Final and charged with protecting a series lead.

"There was a lot of nerves and I was little nervous last night," Gagne said. "I was almost like a young guy playing his first game. I had a hard time sleeping ... but I'm glad now it's over."

Gagne was a surprise addition to the Los Angeles Kings' lineup for Game 3 of the Final. It was his first game since a concussion Dec.26. Coach Darryl Sutter told Gagne after Game 2 that he would be going back in and Gagne took Brad Richardson's place on the fourth line.

Simon Gagne
Simon Gagne
Left Wing - LAK
GOALS: 0 | ASST: 0 | PTS: 0
SOG: 3 | +/-: 0
Gagne played six minutes and 39 seconds and had three shots on goal. He forced a turnover in the first period. He had one glaring error with a slashing penalty at the end of the second period, but the Kings killed it and went on to a 4-0 victory against the New Jersey Devils on Monday night at the Staples Center. The Kings now have a 3-0 series lead and can win the first Cup in franchise history Wednesday night.

The adjustment was quite a leap and Gagne was grateful to get through it without looking entirely out of place.

"After your first shift, it's the speed of the game," he said. "I think you don't have it in practice. It's pretty high-level speed out there. After a couple of shifts, I felt pretty good. I tried to keep it simple. In the end, it's a good win by us."

Gagne's activation was quite surprising. He said as recently as May 25, when he was cleared for contact, that even he wasn't sure if he should return.

The long road he climbed back will pay off if the Kings win the first Cup in their history. By playing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Gagne fulfilled at least one criteria for getting his name engraved on the Cup.

Gagne, who has already tasted losing the Final as a member of the 2010 Philadelphia Flyers, was appreciative just to come this far.

"I'll keep saying the same thing," Gagne said. "Even if playing or not, I know how hard it is to get there. I've never won it, so I imagine it's harder to win. I know the pace of losing and it's hard. It's hard to win. ... Now it's my 12th year. I'm healthy again. That was my No. 1 thing."

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