LOS ANGELES — During the second intermission of the Los Angeles Kings’ 2-1 shootout loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on November 5, colleague Dennis Bernstein, Senior Writer for The Fourth Period Magazine, a columnist for TheFourthPeriod.com, and the Executive Producer of The Fourth Period Live on Sirius/XM Radio, was talking with me about the play of Kings defenseman Drew Doughty.
It is not exactly a trade secret that Doughty has not lit the National Hockey League on fire so far this season, with just two assists (both coming on the power play), a -3 plus/minus rating, and twelve shots on goal in eight games.
We discussed the possibility that Doughty is likely still feeling the effects of his recent right shoulder injury (he missed five games due to that injury), and that he may have returned to action too soon. I said that it is more likely that his contract holdout, which forced him to miss the team’s training camp, has caught up to him.
About a month into the season, Doughty has not displayed the speed, physical play or offensive capabilities that he has displayed since his rookie season in 2008-09.
While playing catch-up to the rest of the team, Doughty’s play also appears to be a drag on the Kings’ offensive attack, which has not even come close to performing near expectations.
Following his team’s shootout loss to the Penguins, Kings head coach Terry Murray indicated that he believes that missing training camp is indeed a factor in Doughty’s slow start.
“I’ve seen this so many times over the years, with players who, for whatever reason, miss training camp,” said Murray. “There’s some lag time here, to get the rust off, to get the cobwebs out, to get going.”
Time and time again, players who miss training camp get off to slow starts, and it often takes a month, maybe two, for them to get back to where they need to be.
Doughty knows he has a lot riding on his play, and while playing catch-up, he has made more than his share of mistakes, while trying to do too much.
“Drew has played with a great deal of, ‘I-want-to-do-it,’” Murray explained. “He wants to make a difference every time he’s on the ice, and on every shift. Sometimes, you can get yourself in a little bit of a [quandary] when you go in with that attitude.”
“I understand where he’s coming from, and the importance of having him, with the puck, trying to do a lot of good things with it,” Murray elaborated. “But when you come back after being out for a little while, it’s better, sometimes, to do less. Advance the puck, get it off your stick, get it up to the forwards and let them screw up instead of you.”
Murray is confident that Doughty will find his stride.
“He’s got a couple of games under his belt now, and they were fast-paced games, back-to-back,” said Murray. “His conditioning is really good, he feels confident battling along the boards, he had no hesitation whatsoever.”
“I know his game is going to get to the level we’ve seen in the past,” added Murray. “We just have to keep pushing here in practice, getting ready for the next game, and to do good things for us.”
The only question now is…when? After all, as Murray has stated previously, much of thr Kings’ offensive attack runs through Doughty and center Anze Kopitar, relying on them to make plays and score goals on a consistent basis.
Although Kopitar is pulling his weight, and then some, without contributions from Doughty, even though his struggles are not the only reason, it should not be a big surprise that the Kings are struggling to score at even strength.
Raw Audio Interviews From Pittsburgh Penguins/Los Angeles Kings, November 3, 2011
(Extraneous material and dead air have been removed)
Anze Kopitar (1:44)
Matt Greene (1:02)
Terry Murray (7:01)
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