Where in the world is Anze Kopitar?
It’s the question on everyone’s mind: What’s wrong with Anze Kopitar? The Kings’ leading scorer has one goal in his last 20 games and two goals in his last 25 games. Asked today after practice, Kopitar said he’s physically fine — no illness, lingering injury, etc. — except in one notable area: scoring. “That’s awful,” Kopitar said, plainly. “Everything else is good.”
The Kings have tried shifting Kopitar’s linemates, and will do so again tomorrow, as he inherits Michal Handzus and Wayne Simmonds, but it’s worth noting that this isn’t exactly new. Last season, on his way to career highs of 34 goals and 81 points, Kopitar had a similarly dreadful dry spell, with two goals in 24 games from mid-November to early January. In fact, last season’s run was worse, because Kopitar had only 12 points in those 24 games. He at least has 19 points in his last 25 games this season. Today, I asked Kopitar if there was anything, from his past — in terms of breaking out of slumps — that he could draw upon now, anything in terms of game play or attitude that could help turn things around.
KOPITAR: “I wish I knew. I would have done it a few games ago, probably. It’s nothing. I’ve got to keep working hard. Hopefully I need an ugly one. I don’t know. It just has to hit me and go in, or something. Or I need one where I really pick the corner and elbow it in or something. I don’t know. Like I said, I feel good and hopefully I will break through here.”
And what does Kopitar think of his new-look line?
KOPITAR: “It will be a little different. It’s one of those things where Zeus maybe has a little bit more patience with the puck, but he’s not the quickest guy out there. We will have to adjust to that, but Simmer is quick, and I’ll try to push the pace too, of course. I’m sure once the puck hits the ice tomorrow, we’ll be ready to go. We’re going to have to build the chemistry quick, and just play hockey.”
A couple others — Terry Murray and Michal Handzus — were asked for their assessments of Kopitar’s play, with Murray, not surprisingly, offering a bit more of a harsher criticism…
MURRAY: “I talked about it after the game last night. We played casually in the second period. I need to get the work back into it. I need to get that intensity and that dig-in attitude back into it. When you get into this sometimes, when you start to see offensive players having difficulty doing the things we talk about — shot mentality, scoring goals — you have a tendency to start to play on the perimeter. I need to bring him back into the game here. That’s what my read is when I watch the games, when I review the games. You have to get into these hard areas right now in order to change things around and be more engaged in the game, and not chasing the game. I felt, last night, that we were either in D-zone coverage or chasing back into our D zone with that line.”
HANDZUS: “It’s always about going back to the little things. Sometimes it’s not only him but it’s the whole team. We’re looking for better play, where we can shoot and get more shots. He’s been getting the chances but they’re not going in. It’s just staying positive. He’s got a great shot, and if he’s shooting the puck, it’s going to go in. When it starts going in, it’s going to come in bunches.”