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LA Kings Anze Kopitar Is Working His Way Back To Elite Status

LA Kings center Anze Kopitar

LOS ANGELES AND EL SEGUNDO, CA — Following the 2013 Western Conference Final, when the Chicago Blackhawks unceremoniously bounced the Los Angeles Kings out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in five games, one thing was crystal-clear…

…Kings star center Anze Kopitar was nothing close to the unstoppable Anze Kopitar who shared the National Hockey League playoff scoring title with teammate Dustin Brown (eight goals, twelve assists for twenty points) in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, when the Kings won the Stanley Cup.

In fact, Kopitar’s paltry three goals and six assists for nine points in 18 playoff games last season was a far cry from his performance in the 2012 playoffs. Moreover, that explosive first step, the strength on the puck, the ability to protect it along the boards and in the corners—all those trademarks of Kopitar’s game were missing in action.

Last season, Kopitar’s prolonged slump began in late March, and extended 34 games, including the post-season. His shockingly poor performance led to widespread speculation that he was injured—it seemed the only logical explanation.

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Marian Gaborik Has Been Just What The Doctor Ordered For The LA Kings


LA Kings left wing Marian Gaborik
(click above to view larger image)

LOS ANGELES AND EL SEGUNDO, CA — When players move from one team to another, especially at the National Hockey League’s trade deadline, the adjustment that a player has to make, both on the ice and off, is never easy. But veteran left wing Marian Gaborik seems to have made the transition from his old team, the Columbus Blue Jackets, to the Los Angeles Kings, with remarkable ease.

Since he was acquired on March 5, 2014, Gaborik has played in twelve games, scoring three goals and contributing five assists for eight points, with a +1 plus/minus rating, and four penalty minutes.

On the season, he has nine goals and 13 assists for 22 points, with a +1 plus/minus rating and ten penalty minutes in 34 games.

More important is the fact that before Gaborik arrived, the Kings, who are 8-3-0 with him in their lineup, were scoring a measly 2.17 goals per game (GPG). But since he joined the team, they have scored 2.75 GPG, which would rank them 14th in the NHL in goal scoring, if that was their full season average (Kings are ranked 24th, averaging 2.41 goals per game for the season).

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LA Kings: Gaborik Adjusting To New Surroundings While Brown, Kopitar Explain Formula For Recent Success

AUDIO: Includes audio interviews with Dustin Brown, Marian Gaborik, Anze Kopitar and Darryl Sutter.


Winger Marian Gaborik (second from right), celebrates a Jeff Carter
goal at Edmonton on March 9, 2014.
(click above to view larger image)

EL SEGUNDO, CA — After winning seven consecutive games coming out of the Olympic break, and with eight straight wins overall, it is now safe to say that the break worked wonders for the Los Angeles Kings, who are on the verge of tying a franchise record for consecutive wins in a season with nine as they prepare to skate against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Staples Center here in Los Angeles tonight (7:30 PM PDT).

“I think all of our guys came back from the break really sharp,” said head coach Darryl Sutter.

“I had lots of fun, [the Olympics] was a great experience for me, personally, for [Team Slovenia], and for every single athlete who was there,” said center Anze Kopitar. “Maybe it gives you a little boost. When I came back, Darryl gave me a few days off, too, so I didn’t have to skate and put on equipment, which helped a lot.”

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LA Kings Trade For Defenseman Brayden McNabb Likely More Important Than Gaborik Deal


Defenseman Brayden McNabb was acquired by
the Los Angeles Kings from the Buffalo Sabres
on March 5, 2014.
(click above to view larger image)

EL SEGUNDO, CA — While everyone was ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the Los Angeles Kings acquiring sniper Marian Gaborik from the Columbus Blue Jackets in a trade deadline deal on March 5 (see LA Kings Trade For Marian Gaborik Is A Good One, But… for details and analysis), they may have overlooked another deadline day trade by the Kings that could have a longer and deeper impact on the franchise.

In that deal, the Kings acquired defenseman Brayden McNabb, right wing Jonathan Parker, and second round picks in the 2014 and 2015 NHL Drafts from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for forward/defenseman Nicolas Deslauriers and right wing Hudson Fasching.

Lombardi noted the difficulty he had in giving up highly-touted prospects in this deal.

“Very hard,” said Lombardi. “That’s one of those deals where neither GM really likes it.”

“We gave up two very good prospects with size, but it was one of those things where you say, you know what? You’ve got to give to get,” added Lombardi. “This was interesting too, because there is a new GM there. He was very decisive and sometimes you’re not sure, but he’s had a tremendous amount of background in personnel. He recognized the same thing. He won’t like giving up McNabb, but we both had a surplus and it made sense for both of us.”

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