Waking up with the Kings: January 1 - LA Kings Insider

Playing their first home game in three weeks on New Year’s Eve, the Kings kept any would-be party crashers at bay with an effective, fast and seemingly emotional and important win by holding off the rival Sharks with a performance that both combined the effort and work ethic of several recent games with the ability to bury the puck when presented with an opportunity. They established a very good pace early, and five minutes into the game, as Nic Dowd’s line kept the puck deep and allowed a piece-by-piece offensive zone line change, Kyle Clifford battled Micheal Haley at the end of a good shift and seemed to sustain energy and emotion in the building, even if most of the fight involved maintaining a strong tug on each others’ jerseys. The fight followed a key Peter Budaj blocker save on Joonas Donskoi some two minutes earlier, setting the stage for Tanner Pearson to scoop up a loose puck near the blue line and rip a high-glove wristshot from the tops of the circles to open the scoring as Los Angeles established an early advantage and forced San Jose to fight from behind for the remaining 55:43. As the Kings built on their lead by etching out another strong start to a period, gradually the Sharks found their footing over the second half of the second, even though a multi-goal deficit forced them to change up their game a little bit in getting numbers deep, allowing Los Angeles to create a few rush chances in the other direction over the latter half of the middle 20 minutes.

Juan Ocampo/NHLI

The Kings led 2-0 after two periods. As is universally understood, a worst-case scenario, apart from a meteor or something resembling the Outbreak movie theater scene inside Staples Center, would be an early goal against to begin the third. The opportunistic Sharks cashed in on their more solidified presence in the game as Brent Burns, who turns any shot from any location in the offensive zone into a dangerous shot, snapped a puck low to the ground that skidded past Budaj to halve his team’s deficit 12 seconds into the period. Shortly after play resumed, on a breakout executed as crisply as you’ll see during rushes at a morning skate, Alec Martinez dropped the puck off the end boards to Jake Muzzin, who advanced it left to Pearson. Pearson found Jeff Carter on a slant across the center of the ice, and from there, either Carter or some sort of upright gazelle in skates blew past Justin Braun, and by the time David Schlemko had recovered from looking over his wrong shoulder, had potted the would-be game-winner by catching a sliver of an opening above Martin Jones’ glove with a beautiful wristshot. Who else can shoot like that having covered half the ice so effortlessly on a high-speed rush? (Note: Patrick Laine and Winnipeg will make their first of two Staples Center visits on this next homestand.) Carter’s MVP performance this season on the surface seems like his 2012-13 campaign; he’s on pace for his second career 40-goal season.

Juan Ocampo/NHLI

There are some comparisons to Carter’s 2012-13 season that are applicable, but not all are strong. Los Angeles’ power play was better that year, and the team as a whole scored more goals per game. The forward, who turns 32 today, accounted for 19.8% of the team’s goals that year, rather than the 22.0% he’s provided this season. More importantly, he also picked up a greater degree of the scoring that season as Anze Kopitar shot a career-low 10.2% and went the final 16 games of the season without a goal. (Kopitar’s 4.3% rate this season is guaranteed to produce either one of two things: a massive market correction and a blistering second half, or word after the season that he was battling through something serious that affected his shot.) Team-wise, the Kings are where they stated they needed to be during its early-season injury calamity: within the pack, hanging tough and in a clear battle for a playoff position. Along with this Tuesday’s rematch up north, an extremely important part of the schedule arises. Should the team take advantage of its seven-game homestand, they’ll go a ways towards solidifying some competitive muscle that their neighbors in the standings will be forced to match.

Juan Ocampo/NHLI

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Adrian Kempe

#9 | 6′ 2″ | 195 lb | Age: 21

Born: September 13, 1996
Birthplace: Kramfors, SWE
Position: LW
Handedness: Left

Bio

Kempe was selected by the Kings in the first round (29th overall) in the 2014 NHL Draft.
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Alex Iafallo

#19 | 6′ | 185 lb | Age: 23

Born: December 21, 1993
Birthplace: Eden, NY, USA
Position: C
Handedness: Left

Bio

Iafallo was signed by the Kings as an unrestricted free agent on April 18, 2017.
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Anze Kopitar

#11 | 6′ 3″ | 224 lb | Age: 29

Born: August 24, 1987
Birthplace: Jesenice, SVN
Position: C
Handedness: Left

Bio

As the 11th overall pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, Kopitar became the first Slovenian to play in the NHL. Kopitar has spent his entire NHL career with the Kings, and following the 2015–16 season, was named the Kings’ captain. Noted for both his offensive and defensive play, Kopitar was awarded the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the best defensive forward in the NHL in 2016.

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Drew Doughty

#8 | 6′ 1″ | 195 lb | Age: 26

Born: December 8, 1989
Birthplace: London, ON, CAN
Position: D
Handedness: Right

Bio

Bio: Doughty is a Canadian defenceman who was selected second overall by the Kings in the 2008 Draft. Doughty made his NHL debut in 2008 as an 18-year-old and was named to the All-Rookie Team. He is a two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Kings, a two-time Olympic gold medallist with the Canadian national team, and a Norris Trophy finalist.

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Jeff Carter

#77 | 6′ 4″ | 215 lb | Age: 31

Born: January 1, 1985
Birthplace: London, ON, CAN
Position: C
Handedness: Right

Bio

Carter began his hockey career playing in the Ontario Hockey League in Canada before joining the AHL and playing for the Philadelphia Flyers. He was then traded to the Colombus Blue jackets before joining the LA Kings in 2012, where he has since won two Stanley Cups with the Kings.

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Jonathan Quick

#32 | 6′ 1″ | 218 lb | Age: 30

Born: January 21, 1986
Birthplace: Milford, CT, USA
Position: G
Handedness: Left

Bio

Bio: Quick is the current goaltender for the LA Kings and was selected by Los Angeles at the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. Previously, Quick was a silver medalist with USA at the 2010 Winter Olympics. He’s won two Stanley Cup championships with the Kings, along with being the most recent goaltender to be awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs.

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