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June 1, 2012 12:15 pm

`Clutch’ Kopitar appreciated by teammates

Anze Kopitar is certainly having more fun in the playoffs this year than he did last year. Twelve months ago, Kopitar was on crutches, recovering from surgery necessitated by a devastating late-season leg injury. Now, Kopitar is a major cog behind the Kings’ run to the Stanley Cup Finals. He has recorded at least one point in 12 of the Kings’ 15 playoff games, and with his overtime goal in Game 1 against New Jersey, Kopitar pulled into a tie with linemate Dustin Brown for the team lead in goals (seven) and points (16) in this postseason. True to his nature, when asked about his playoff run, Kopitar deflected the praise…

KOPITAR: “I think our line has been pretty productive throughout this whole playoffs. With Dustin and Justin (Williams) on the wings, they’ve been playing some good hockey, and that certainly helps.’’

That left captain Brown and alternate captain Matt Greene to speak for Kopitar’s game, and not just his offense…

BROWN: “He’s always been a big part of this team. Obviously he gets a big goal for us (in Game 1). That’s what you want your best players to do, is to find ways to win you games, and he did that. The flip side of that is his defensive game. He and Ricky [Mike Richards], they’ve been able to shut down top teams’ lines.’’

GREENE: “He’s awesome. He’s got a lot of skill. He’s been working hard. He’s been clutch for us. When he gets chances, he’s been making them really count, and he did that last night for us.’’

Darryl Sutter was asked about what he knew about Kopitar’s game when he took over the Kings in mid-December. Sutter sometimes give short, curt answers to similar questions — he is regularly asked about Dustin Brown and Jonathan Quick in the same vein — but Sutter gave a fairly in-depth answer about Kopitar and his development.

SUTTER: “He plays lots of minutes, plays lots of situations, takes faceoffs. (It) doesn’t bother what style is going on, he can handle it. I think the big thing I tried to impress upon him was just being consistent. It’s no different than any other young player. Obviously he’s getting to play in the playoffs, which is something he’d only done six games before in his career. So obviously if you ask him, that’s probably the biggest (thing) ‑‑ what he would say, is getting to play longer in the playoffs.’’

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