AUDIO INTERVIEWS: Listen to post-game audio of interviews with Dustin Brown, Alec Martinez, Jeff Schultz, head coaches Darryl Sutter and Bruce Boudreau. Also listen to the pre-game press conference with National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman.
ANAHEIM, CA — With veteran, stay-at-home defensemen Willie Mitchell and Robyn Regehr unavailable due to injury, the Los Angeles Kings were forced to turn to a player who had not played in a National Hockey League game since March 31, 2013, when he was with the Washington Capitals.
Along the same lines, the Kings turned to a player who spent the entire season (aside from a couple of brief recalls to the Kings; he did not play) with the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League.
That player is 6-6, 225-pound defenseman Jeff Schultz, a 28-year-old native of Calgary, Alberta who had not played in an NHL game in more than two years. Despite that, he was a significant reason the Kings were able to hold on to a one-goal lead at Anaheim on May 5, eventually helping the Kings defeat the Anaheim Ducks, 3-1 (the Kings added an empty-net goal), in Game 2 of their best-of-seven, second round playoff series.
The Kings now lead the series, 2-0, with Game 3 scheduled for Thursday, May 8, 7:00 PM PDT, at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
“I thought he was awesome,” winger and captain Dustin Brown said about Schultz. “He’s been in big [playoff] series with Washington [earlier] in his career.”
As Brown noted, Schultz is a veteran of 399 NHL regular season games with the Capitals, along with 29 playoff games, also with the Capitals.
“For a guy who hasn’t been with us all year, I thought he stepped in and played really well,” said Brown. “He just made the simple plays, and he did really well on the defensive side of the puck.”
“When guys go down, it’s an opportunity for guys to step up and play, and I thought he was awesome,” added Brown.
“We can’t say enough about Schultz tonight,” said defenseman Alec Martinez. “He stepped in. He’s a proven NHL’er. He played a heck of a hockey game for us. But I think it’s about the whole team [having] to elevate their game.”
As Brown noted, Schultz was effective because he kept things simple.
“I just tried to get myself involved in the game quickly,” he said. “Give a hit, take a hit, touch the puck, and feel like I got in the game. They put me into a role I’m comfortable in, and it felt good as the game went on.”
“The guys made me really comfortable this morning, and before the game,” he added. “The coaches just said to go out there and play how you know how to play.”
The fact that the Monarchs play the same system down on the farm also helped Schultz to be able to jump right in.
“It’s the exact same system, so I’m very familiar with it,” he said. “I didn’t have to change anything. Knowing the system really helped [along with] being comfortable out there.”
Even though he is not an NHL rookie, Schultz made his debut for the Kings in Game 2 against the Ducks, a team that is now building a rivalry with the Kings.
All that gave Schultz a few butterflies in his stomach prior to the game.
“There were some nerves this afternoon, coming to the rink,” said Schultz. “But I just went through my normal game-time routine. I got through warm-up, and tried to limit my shift length, so I could get into the game.”
“It was a good team win,” added Schultz. “There are no individuals out here. Everybody played well. Everybody played the system well, and [goaltender Jonathan Quick] was strong.”
“It was exciting. It’s the rivalry that I’m sure a lot of people wanted to see. The best part was coming away with the victory.”
Head coach Darryl Sutter praised Schultz, but emphasized that, as Martinez noted, it took more than one player to replace Mitchell and Regehr.
“Jeff Schultz can play well in his own zone,” said Sutter. “We just want him to move pucks and play well in his own zone, and that’s exactly what he did. But that’s not just Jeff Schultz. It’s everybody around him who had to step their game up a little bit.”
“Losing those two guys, you’re not going to replace either of them just with one guy,” Martinez stressed. “Everyone has to step up. We’ve got a lot of depth on defense, and that’s helped out a lot. The whole team has rallied together, and is playing a team game.”
Raw Audio Interviews
(Extraneous material and dead air have been removed; click on the arrow to listen):
Dustin Brown (3:00)
Alec Martinez (1:31)
Jeff Schultz (2:11)
Darryl Sutter (4:41)
Anaheim Ducks Head Coach Bruce Boudreau (5:23)
Audio Of Press Conference: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman
Gary Bettman (11:46)
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