Pacific: Kings duo leads team’s surge to first

By Andrew Knoll

Photo: Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick (#32)and forward Anze Kopitar (#11) keyed that team’s move into first in the Pacific Division (courtesy of

Adam Davis/Icon SMI)

Two Los Angeles Kings hold two of the three slots in this week’s Pacific Division stars of the week selections. The selection period covers March 16-22.

First Star: Anze Kopitar, Center, Los Angeles Kings –
Kopitar put together four straight games with a goal, three of which came this past week. He added a pair of helpers in a win over division rival San Jose, a match in which he also scored the game winner. While Kopitar didn’t record a point against St. Louis—the game remained scoreless through 65 minutes—he did deliver five hits and block three shots, including a critical block during a Blues power play in overtime. Kopitar continued to play a true 200-foot game this week, drawing praise across the roster and coaching staff. He has shown increasing confidence in his own stick, as demonstrated by the greater frequency and more ambitious placement of his shots.

Second Star: Jonathan Quick, Goalie, Los Angeles Kings –
Quick has been the fulcrum of the Kings success all season and it has not changed now that his team has finally given him a bit of offensive support. Quick started three of the Kings’ victories this week, posting a 1.31 goals-against average and a .961 save percentage. While his workload was not terribly heavy in wins over Anaheim and Detroit, he negated all 35 St. Louis bids in 65 minutes of action before triumphing against Brian Elliot and the Blues in the shootout. The win marked Quick’s NHL-leading eighth shutout. He stands fourth league-wide in both save percentage and goals-against average.

Third Star: Ray Whitney, Left Wing, Phoenix Coyotes
Whitney persisted in his remarkably steady play, recording two goals and two assists in three games. The importance of the bankable veteran’s consistency has been magnified by the absence of his few skilled teammates up front. Martin Hanzal and Radim Vrbata each returned to the lineup last week, but then Vrbata missed Monday’s game with a nagging injury. Most recently, Phoenix captain Shane Doan was suspended for three games for an elbow he threw at the Stars’ Jamie Benn. Doan served the first game of the suspension Thursday, a 3-2 win over Colorado in which Whitney picked up an assist.

The Weekend Ahead

The Stars will host Calgary in a Saturday matinee, two points and three positions in the standings separate the two teams. After defeating the league’s best team by record, the Kings will face the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins Saturday. Boston will head to Anaheim Sunday for the Ducks’ only game in the next three days as they enjoy a three-day break this week. The Coyotes have a challenging back-to-back at San Jose Saturday and hosting Boston Sunday as Shane Doan serves out the remainder of his suspension. That will be the Sharks’ only contest as they gear up for a heavy schedule next week that will include three games in three cities in four nights.

Pacific Division Notes

The Coyotes scored first for the second time in 12 games, then held off the Colorado Avalanche 3-2 in a big four-point game … The Kings’ win over the Blues put them in first place in the Pacific. It featured 86 hits. The Blues again failed to support Elliot. They have been shutout in his last three losses and have scored two of fewer goals in all 12 of his losses on the season … San Jose beat Boston 2-1 in a must-win home game. Daniel Winnik and Joe Pavelski each had a goal and an assist while Antti Niemi had his shutout broken up with 4:15 to play … Dallas fell 2-1 to Vancouver, falling from third to eighth in the Western Conference in the process.