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Anze Kopitar’s Improvement In Face-Off Circle Is A Key Factor In LA Kings’ Playoff Success

LA Kings center Anze Kopitar (right), shown here being pursued by
Chicago Blackhawks left wing Patrick Kane.

EL SEGUNDO, CA — One of the reasons the Los Angeles Kings have made it all the way to Game 7 of the 2014 Western Conference Final has been their ability to possess the puck, and as players and coaches will tell you, puck possession begins in the face-off circle.

Kings Center Jarret Stoll has been one of the best in the National Hockey League in the face-off circle since his days with the Edmonton Oilers. But star center Anze Kopitar, now one of the best face-off men in the league, has had to really work on face-offs, a part of his game that was rather deficient when he started out.

In 2006-07, his rookie season, Kopitar won just 46.1 percent of his draws. It took him five seasons before he really improved, jumping up to 53.8 percent in the 2011-12 season, even though his percentage dropped to 48.6 percent during the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, when the Kings won the Stanley Cup.

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2014 Western Conference Final – Game 7: LA Kings Make Unwanted Trip Back To Chicago

2014 WESTERN CONFERENCE FINAL – GAME 7: The Los Angeles Kings are back in Chicago, a place they did not want to return to, not this soon, anyway. Despite that, they’re not uncomfortable being back in the Windy City for tonight’s Game 7. Part 1 of this two-part story looks back at Game 6, and the reasons they are back in Chicago. Part 2 will look at why the Kings are so comfortable being in Chicago for Game 7, even though returning was clearly not their first choice.


Chicago Blackhawks star left wing Patrick Kane (number 88) has had lots of reasons to celebrate after playing a starring role in his team’s wins in Games 5 and 6 over the Los Angeles Kings in the 2014 Western Conference Final.

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Kings are certainly in a place they don’t want to be, not literally, anyway.

After a 4-3 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 6 of the 2014 Western Conference Final, the series is tied, 3-3, forcing the Kings to return to Chicago for tonight’s Game 7 (5:00 PM PDT), a city that they had no desire to visit again, at least, not until next season.

Defensive breakdowns and failing to pay close enough attention to the Blackhawks’ top players, most notably, Patrick Kane, have been the Kings’ downfall in the last two games.

“It’s been our problem the last two games, giving up too many goals and that’s the result of making mistakes in the neutral zone and mistakes on coverage,” said winger and team captain Dustin Brown. “If we clean that up, we’re good.”

“We’ve got to be sharper in our own end,” said defenseman Alec Martinez. “We can’t have those breakdowns and allow them those opportunities. They’re going to capitalize.”

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Chicago Blackhawks May Not Have An Answer For LA Kings “That 70’s Line”

LA Kings right wing Tyler Toffoli celebrates after scoring the game-winning goal in the second period of his team’s 4-3 win over the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 3 of the 2014 Western Conference Finals at Staples Center
in Los Angeles on May 24, 2014.

LOS ANGELES AND EL SEGUNDO, CA — Prior to the start of the 2014 Western Conference Final, much of the talk was about the upcoming battle between two of the top centers in the National Hockey League, Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings, and Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks.

Conventional wisdom dictated that for whichever player won the battle between them, their team would win the series.

So far, the advantage goes to Toews.

Indeed, Kopitar has contributed just one assist in the series so far, and his line mates, left wing Marian Gaborik and forward Dustin Brown, have been held without a point in the series by Toews’ line, with Bryan Bickell and Marian Hossa on the wings.

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2014 NHL Western Conference Final Preview: LA Kings vs. Chicago Blackhawks

LA Kings center Anze Kopitar

ANAHEIM AND LOS ANGELES, CA — At this time one year ago, the Los Angeles Kings went into the Western Conference Final (WCF) against the Chicago Blackhawks a bruised, battered and banged up team, as several players continued to play despite having suffered injuries earlier in the playoffs.

To make matters worse, center Anze Kopitar was in the midst of a 34-game scoring slump, the longest drought of his National Hockey League career, and it could not have come at a worse time.

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