The Los Angeles Kings are struggling to score, so on the surface it may seem a bit odd to call to attention the raised performance of certain role players who aren’t regularly finding the scoresheet. But while Jordan Nolan has been on the ice for only 1.35 goals per 60 minutes at even strength and owns possession rates slightly in the red, the eye test and conversations with the team’s staff indicate that there has been clear improvement in his game, beginning with his two-goal performance at Arizona on December 1.
Nolan feels “pretty good” about his game as it currently stands, a raised outlook that stems from both confidence and the way he’s thinking.
“I think the way I’m trying to address the game and hold on to the puck more with my feet so seems to be working a little bit,” he said.
“I think I’m just playing more confident. I’m hanging on to pucks, I feel like I’m not scared to make a play out there and I think it’s just a lot of confidence. That’s really the main thing I can say. I’m trying to make plays, I’m trying to bring pucks to the net and I feel like it’s all kind of coming together now.”
The line he skated on accounted for the team’s only goal in a 3-1 loss to Edmonton on Thursday as Nick Shore intercepted a Mark Letestu pass and beat Cam Talbot up high as Nolan provided a netfront screen.
“I think me and Shorezy have been working well together,” Nolan said before noting the recent aptitude he’s shown in entering the offensive zone with the puck. “I think [Shore] knows that I like to skate it in on my backhand, and I feel like I’ve got a lot of speed that I can bring it in the zone most of the time, so I think we’re kind of working well together in that and he’s getting me the puck and I think he knows I like carrying it, so it’s kind of working out well for us.”
Darryl Sutter was cognizant of certain raised elements in Nolan’s game and articulated what the rugged forward must adhere to to be successful.
“The way everything’s worked out, he’s played with lots of different guys,” Sutter said. “It took him a long time. He had that back surgery last year. I don’t think he was really at full runnin’ until probably the first of November. I think he’s gotten a little bit of that energy and enthusiasm back in his game that was lacking for a long time. He’s a boy that’s got to understand what his role is in terms of what he can give, in terms of the physical part of the game and the staying out of the penalty box part of the game and not turning pucks over – simple things like that – and he has to really stay in that wanting to be a 10-minute player.”
Jordan Nolan, on the source of his improved confidence:
It probably comes from within. I think just realizing that I can make certain plays, I can hang on to pucks, I’m a big player so I should be able to make plays down low. I think if you’re looking for confidence and things from other people it might not always come so I think you’ve got to kind of find it within yourself and push yourself.
Nolan, on taking more of a leadership role when he’s on the ice:
Definitely, I think even in years past where I come in and just, I think I’m just trying to work hard and play physical and just kind of, I don’t know, try to make a point that I’m in the lineup and now I’m trying to kind of lead the play and I want the puck on my stick more and I want to make plays and I’m kind of demanding a few more things out of myself so I think that’s kind of pushed me and I’m feeling good about myself and I’m trying to stay confident so I think it’s helping me a lot.
Nolan, on carrying the puck in to the zone more than chipping it in:
Maybe just trying to finally figure it out how I can come in the zone. I’m playing on my off-wing so I think it’s a lot better for myself. I can put the puck way out on my backhand, I can turn up sharp, I can hit the D-man right away, so I think playing on my off-wing is starting to help me out a lot. I think it’s just a lot of it’s confidence and just kind of knowing you can make certain plays.
Nolan, on playing on his off-wing in the defensive zone:
It’s a little different. Definitely got to be a little more focused because catching pucks on your backhand is obviously a little bit harder. But it hasn’t been too bad this year but some games you get those bad passes in your feet and you’ve got to make some quick plays so I think for myself getting my feet going obviously helps me a lot.