Ric Tapia/Icon SMI)
With so much attention on the new names in the Los Angeles lineup, it has been a trio of familiar faces carrying the offensive load offensively for the Kings of late.
Not long ago, the Kings endured 1-0 and 2-1 losses as if they were an English football club, leaning heavily on All-Star goalie Jonathan Quick. In nine games since the arrival of Jeff Carter via trade, they have scored 30 goals and only twice failed to score three goals or more in a game.
Yet it has been the Kings top line of Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams that has illuminated the scoreboard at Staples Center and elsewhere for the Kings.
“They’re hot. (The news media) were bringing a lot of attention to it, and they put a lot of pressure on themselves, too,” defenseman Matt Greene said. “They want to lead this team and they do a good job of leading this team. They want to be the go-to guys and they’re doing a good job of it over the last ten or so games. They’re rolling and it’s fun to watch.”
Kopitar and Williams each have nine points in their last eight games, including early goals against Detroit Tuesday night in a 5-2 romp over the Wings.
Brown has been scorching hot since before the trade deadline, racking up 16 points in his last 11 games and lifting the Kings in key spots. He has been explosive with four multi-point games in that span, including a hat trick. He has also been consistent, being held off the score sheet just once in 11 contests.
“That’s why Brownie’s our captain, he’s our leader on and off the ice. The way he’s playing right now, he’s setting an example for every single one of us,” defenseman Drew Doughty said.
Head coach Darryl Sutter pointed to special teams as a big reason for his club’s recent success. The Kings have killed 32 straight penalties and their PK is ranked fourth in the NHL.
Sutter said what impressed him most was their consistency both at home and on the road. He also said that in the last fifteen games or so, he has considered their power play to be one of the most effective in the league. Sutter also remarked that the arrival of Carter has forced players to compete more for “the privilege of being out there on the power play.”
Carter has been skating with rookie Dwight King and longtime teammate, Mike Richards. While Richards has a lonely goal in his last 35 games, he has been picking up his activity on offense.
Carter turned in a multi-point effort against Detroit, moving him to seven points in nine games as a King.
But, to a man, the Kings believed his impact went beyond what showed in the box score.
“Every single time Carts gets that puck on his stick with a little bit of speed, it’s always a threat. He’s so fast, he’s got great hands and an unbelievable shot, he’ll shoot it right through you,” Doughty said. “So I think every single time he touches that puck, that causes the other team’s defense to back off and that creates some more room for his teammates.”
With the Kings sitting in a four-way points tie for the final playoff spot and five points back of the third-seeded Dallas Stars, they will need to continue to coalesce and play a balanced game over their final dozen contests.
Pacific Division Notes
The Dallas Stars and Kari Lehtonen kept rolling Tuesday with a 1-0 shutout of the Minnesota Wild. Jamie Benn tipped in Brenden Morrow’s deflected pass in the third period for the game’s only goal … Logan Couture scored both San Jose goals in the Sharks 3-2 overtime loss in Calgary. The Sharks dominated possession but lost anyway. San Jose, Calgary, Los Angeles and Colorado are in a points tie for the final Western playoff spot with Phoenix just one point ahead of the quartet … The Anaheim Ducks’ defending Hart Trophy winner Corey Perry continues to struggle with an injured shoulder that caused him to miss the Colorado game. His return date remains uncertain. Luca Sbisa is also doubtful for Wednesday’s meeting with Detroit, he has battled back spasms over the past three days … The Kings’ Simon Gagne has been skating on his own and seemed in high spirits at the arena Tuesday, but his return this season is still questionable … Phoenix center Martin Hanzal may miss Wednesday’s game against the Canucks with an upper-body injury.