Also includes video interviews with Drew Doughty and Anze Kopitar.
EL SEGUNDO, CA — If their win on November 8 against the Vancouver Canucks was any indication, the Los Angeles Kings have raised their level of play just in time to face a team that is currently third in the Western Conference and in the overall league standings.
That team is none other than the Anaheim Ducks, who host the Kings at Honda Center in Anaheim tonight (7:30 PM PST), and are just one point out of the league and conference lead.
Against the Canucks on November 8, the Kings played at a pace not seen from them this season. They made plays consistently, and they established a strong forecheck, resulting in long stretches in which they held onto the puck and made plays off of it.
“I think we probably played our best game of the year against Vancouver,” said defenseman Drew Doughty. “We played really well. We beat’em pretty badly, and if we keep playing like that, we’ll beat a lot more teams. But we still have a lot of work to do. We’re still not at the point we want to be.”
“I think we came out hot, which we haven’t been doing lately,” added Doughty. “We came out and scored three in first. When you get a team on their heels, right off the bat, it takes the ‘oomph’ out of their team. They didn’t have it for the rest of the game. We were able to control it from there on out.”
Most noticeable against the Canucks were forwards Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik, who, for the first time this year, looked a lot like the players they were late last season.
But Kopitar insisted that the Kings’ success in that game was due to more than just Gaborik and himself.
“I don’t think it was just me and him,” said Kopitar. “I think it was the five guys who were on the ice at the time. [Right wing Justin Williams] was making plays, and the defensemen were involved all the time, so it’s not just about us. It’s about the five guys who are on the ice. It seems like we were making plays. We’ve just got to keep doing that.”
“I felt like we were handling the puck a lot more, and maybe, not giving it away as easily as we did in the past,” added Kopitar. “We’ve got to build on it, work at it, and get better at it.”
For Kopitar, who suffered an upper body injury against the Columbus Blue Jackets on October 26 at Staples Center, it was his best game of the 2014-15 regular season to date.
“Yeah, I felt pretty good,” he said. “I felt better than I did before.”
Both Doughty and Kopitar pointed to considerable improvement in puck support on breakout plays coming out of their zone—shortening the gaps between Kings defenseman and forwards—as a critical factor in their success against the Canucks.
“That’s one thing we’ve been focusing on, being good on our breakouts, getting pucks up to our forwards and joining the rush as defensemen,” Doughty noted. “It was a good job last game. We can still improve in certain areas, and we will.”
“It’s a big thing for me, and for the line, how we come up the ice together with good [puck] support—we’re going to make plays through the neutral zone,” said Kopitar. “Therefore, we’re going to make plays going into the offensive zone, too.”
“If we’re spread out, usually, we’re dumping the puck in and chasing it,” added Kopitar. “That’s what we don’t want to do.”
Perhaps even more encouraging, from a Kings perspective, is that their game is on the rise even with defensemen Slava Voynov (suspended) and Robyn Regehr (undisclosed injury) out of the lineup.
“We have some key guys out of our lineup,” said Doughty. “But we have other guys stepping up to the plate, taking their positions, so we still have a lot of work to do, but we’re on the right track.”
“We’ve always known about the depth we have on this team. We have four lines that can play, and we have guys we can put in different places if guys [get hurt],” added Doughty. “We have a lot of depth on this team, we trust everybody, we believe in everybody, and we have confidence in the entire group.”
“It doesn’t matter who’s playing. We expect to play well.”
LA Kings Post-Practice Interviews, November 11, 2014 via FrozenRoyaltyNHL on YouTube
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