March 29, 2011 9:30 am

Handzus completes climb to first line

It’s been, quite literally, an up-and-down season for Michal Handzus. He started the season in his customary spot as the Kings’ third-line center, but then made a drop to the fourth line in late January and early February. After seven games, Handzus moved back to the third line, then recently moved up to the second line when he swapped spots with Jarret Stoll. Now, with Anze Kopitar out, Handzus inherits the first-line center spot. Handzus is capable of playing 20 minutes per game — he’s averaging 17 minutes this season — and his defensive credentials are impeccable, but the question is whether Handzus can take a step forward on offense. A regular 20-goal scorer, Handzus has 11 goals in 75 games this season. Now he will play in a high-profile role with wingers Dustin Penner and Oscar Moller. Handzus talked about his new role and the need for improvement, throughout the lineup, in order to make up for Kopitar’s absence…

HANDZUS: “That’s why we have 23 guys on the team. Obviously it hurts, because he’s our best player, but everybody goes through injuries, so it’s not only about one guy. Everybody has got to step up a little bit higher. Some guys are going to take a little more responsibility, but it’s more about the team. It’s just the way it is. We cannot go back and we cannot look back. We just look forward. We’re going to make up for it and it’s going to make us a better team, for sure.”

Question: You’re in a different role now, but do you try to change your game at all going forward?

HANDZUS: “Not really. I’ll try to play my game. Everybody has got to step up, me too. Everybody has got to do a little bit more, and that’s just the way it is. I don’t want to change too much. I’m not going to play like Kopi, that’s for sure, so I’ve got to play my game and hope to do a little bit more. … I still feel that I can be a good offensive player. It’s up to me to show it a little bit more often than I have this year. That’s what I’m going to focus on a little bit more.”

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