Peter Harrold grinned and shook hands with familiar faces from the media during today’s session. One of the game’s real good guys, Harrold is now on an amazing ride with the New Jersey Devils, after five years in the Kings’ organization. Harrold, who turns 29 next month, signed with the Kings after he left Boston College and, after two seasons split between the AHL and NHL, joined the Kings full-time in 2008. That didn’t make Harrold a full-time defenseman, though. Harrold played 69 games that season, then 39 games in 2009-10 and 19 games last season.
The Kings admired Harrold’s hard work and versatility — he also served as an emergency winger at times — but simply didn’t have a spot for him. Last summer, Harrold signed a free-agent contract with the Devils. He didn’t make the team coming out of training camp, but got called up in late January and started playing well. Harrold played only 11 regular-season games with the Devils but has become a lineup regular in the playoffs, with four assists in 14 games. Harrold was asked today about the reasons behind his change in fortune.
HARROLD: “I don’t know if it’s any one thing. It’s just starting to get your confidence back down there (in the AHL), and when you get up here, I guess I took advantage of my opportunities, played well enough, and I think I was fortunate that the team started to play really well at the same time. So, that was good timing. Other than that, it’s hard to nail it down to any one thing.’’
Question: Maybe sometimes a change in scenery can be good? Not only going to a different organization but having different (coaches and management) look at you)?
HARROLD: “I guess that’s what it took. Obviously they’ve got a really good squad over there, and there’s no ill will there. I needed to go somewhere else and re-establish myself, and it turns out that I ended up picking the right team and that we’re in a pretty good spot here.’’
Question: Have you talked to guys (on the Kings), or have you cut the ties now?
HARROLD: “I talked to them throughout the playoffs, but I think the lines of communication have been severed for the next couple weeks here. I think we just exchanged congratulations on making it to this point, and we’ll talk after.’’
That includes Matt Greene, Harrold’s frequent carpool buddy during their shared time in Los Angeles, who agreed with Harrold’s approach.
GREENE: “Obviously I think everybody has friends on every team in the league, so you’re going to be going up against somebody you know or somebody you played with before. That won’t change, the friendship won’t change, but it’s something that you put aside for now. Everybody is adults about it.’’
Alexei Ponikarovksy was a bit less effusive about his journey, perhaps because it has taken so many twists and turns. Ponikarovsky played for Toronto and Pittsburgh in 2009-10, then signed with the Kings in the summer of 2010 after their ill-fated pursuit of (current New Jersey winger) Ilya Kovalchuk. After one season with the Kings, in which he totaled five goals and 10 assists in 61 games, Ponikarovsky signed with Carolina last summer, but the Hurricanes traded him to New Jersey in January. Ponikarovsky finished the regular season with seven goal and eight assists in 49 games with the Devils, and now has one goal and five assists in 18 playoff games.
PONIKAROVSKY: “I never really look back. I always look forward, wherever I go, and I try to bring my game and do the best that I can for the team I play for. So, I never really look back. I’m just trying to stay positive all the time. When I got traded (to New Jersey), obviously I knew it was coming because we weren’t making the playoffs and I would be a free agent at the end of the year. I kind of knew that they probably wanted to trade me to get something instead. That’s what happened. I guess I got blessed that this team picked me up and we got off to a good start right away.’’