For a second consecutive season, it happened. Drew Doughty went down with an early-season injury, and Jack Johnson was more than willing and capable to step up and help carry the defense. Johnson arguably turned in his strongest all-around effort of the season last night in Dallas, when he played 27 minutes, 27 seconds — 6 1/2 minutes more than any other Kings player — and had a plus-2 rating.
MURRAY: “He’s really taking strides this year. He’s a real man out there. There was a play, late in the third period, and it was just a puck battle, stick on stick, compete for a loose puck. And, man, that’s just compete right there. That’s being in the right place at the right time, knowing that that’s a dangerous area but you’re in readiness. So I really like his game on both sides of the puck right now. He’s playing well with his partner. The play off the puck, the support to his partner, getting available, has really improved dramatically for me. It’s a great thing to see. It gives us that player that you always want to get to. Whenever you have a young, raw player, you’re hoping to get to a point where you can talk this way, and it’s happening right now for me. Jack is doing a great job.’’
Murray was then asked if there was any concern that, with Doughty’s imminent return, Johnson’s game might take a step back.
MURRAY: “I don’t think so. I’ve thought about that. I don’t think so. I think they’ve been together long enough now that they know that you have to play the game the right way, a team game, in order to be successful as individuals. I think their time, going back through the playoffs against Vancouver, where we put them together on the power play, and they really complemented each other with great support, carried through to last year. Same to me. They have a respect for each other. They’re not out to one-up each other. They’re just playing the game with the right kind of intensity and the right way. I think that’s a sign of maturity.’’