EL SEGUNDO, CA — When the Los Angeles Kings acquired veteran center Vincent Lecavalier, no one expected him to do much more than provide some solid bottom six minutes, and perhaps most notably, win some key face-offs.
But in 34 games with the Kings since they acquired him on January 6 from the Philadelphia Flyers, along with defenseman Luke Schenn, in exchange for center prospect Jordan Weal and a third round pick in the 2016 National Hockey League Draft, Lecavalier has exceeded most expectations with eight goals and seven assists for 15 points, with a +6 plus/minus rating and a 52.4 percent face-off winning percentage.
Lecavalier isn’t the player he was with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Nevertheless, the 35-year-old native of Ile Bizard, Quebec, who was the first overall selection by Tampa Bay in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, is definitely not washed up.
“It’s been really good,” Lecavalier said. “I feel comfortable on the ice and I’m happy to be here.”
“It’s a great hockey team, and it’s an opportunity for me to play and have a role,” Lecavalier added. “What they’ve done [over] the last six or seven years—the ultimate goal is what we’re going for. It’s been great.”
Lecavalier credited head coach Darryl Sutter for being a big part of his resurgence.
“I didn’t really know what to expect, coming here,” said Lecavalier. “But seeing things from the first game, he’s been giving me a chance. What makes this team really good is that everyone has an important role. [Sutter] likes to roll four lines and six defensemen, so everybody feels the importance of their own role. That what makes a team really good.”
“I mean, I’m playing on the penalty-kill,” added Lecavalier. “I haven’t really done that in awhile. I’m not on it all the time, but sometimes I am. [I’m taking] some big face-offs, [I’m getting some power play] time, so it’s been really good.”
Another surprise about Lecavalier is that he has been very solid defensively, something he had never been known for previously, especially with the Lightning.
“It’s a style of play, it’s a commitment,” he noted. “First of all, here, if you don’t [play defense], you don’t play. Everybody is playing the same way. It doesn’t matter if your name is [Anze] Kopitar, [Jeff] Carter—all these guys are thinking defense first. If those two guys are playing that way, everybody’s going to follow. Coming here, I’m doing the same thing. I follow these guys. They’ve had success, and I want to win and be part of it. You have to do it.”
As reported earlier, one of the most important reasons the Kings acquired Lecavalier was to improve in the face-off circle.
“Vinny has been awesome for us, taking draws, taking a little pressure off Kopi, being a left-handed center,” said forward Trevor Lewis. “He’s been great on the power play, too. He’s helped me a lot, just kind of talking to him, and feeding off of him.”
“Kopi is really good on draws, and [Carter] as well,” said Lecavalier. “But when guys are tired, or whatever the circumstances are, we have four centers who can take draws. [Sutter] puts us out there in those important situations at the end of games.”
Sutter indicated that Lecavalier is doing exactly what the team needs.
“He’s played, not different roles,” said Sutter. “He’s played a third-line role. When he came here, he played on the fourth line until he got his game fitness, game pace, back up, simply because he hadn’t played.”
“He’s played a third line role,” added Sutter. “His minutes are 11-14 minutes. That’s what a third-line center has to play for you. A third-line guy is supposed to take face-offs, he’s supposed to be able to roll with situations, especially centers.”
LEAD PHOTO: Los Angeles Kings center Vincent Lecavalier. Photo: David Sheehan/CaliShooterOne Photography.
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