Waking up with the Kings: December 31 - LA Kings Insider

So, there are several ways to look at Saturday’s 4-3 win over Vancouver. Among them, on one hand, Los Angeles had early chances to put away a wounded team when they led 2-1 and instead had to sweat one out and fight from behind in the third. (Credit Travis Green and the Canucks for keeping within Pacific Division striking distance during a spate of injuries, when they weren’t exactly Cup contenders to begin with.) On the other hand, along with maybe the Philadelphia and New York Rangers games, that was about as sound of a performance as the team produced in a December in which they went 8-3-2. The Torrey Mitchell line had an off-night, and the back end of the defense played limited minutes, but there was otherwise a good commitment to battle, find open ice, move the pucks up-ice quickly and bring them into hard areas. There was also success in generating rush chances, which was the result of being able to evade a Vancouver forecheck and exit the defensive zone cleanly for the majority of the 60 minutes, minus the portions in the second period in which the Canucks generated several momentum surges. But even when Vancouver tied the game, and led early in the third, it never felt as though Los Angeles had lost control of the game.

Jeff Vinnick/NHLI

There were a pair of positive developments in the lineup structure: Adrian Kempe played one of his better games of the season, and his two wings, Marian Gaborik and Tyler Toffoli, combined for five points. Kempe has limitations at center, but he competes, skates well, and that line did a very good job of getting the puck into high-danger areas in the offensive zone. For Toffoli, that’s now 10 goals, 17 points and a plus-12 rating in 20 career games against the Canucks. Another: the Clifford-Shore-Lewis combination, which was very good in the preseason and before Kyle Clifford’s injury three games in, was also quite good. Trevor Lewis was attacking open areas of the ice with speed and showed excellent patience to not force a play before snapping the puck towards the front of the net, where Clifford and Nick Shore’s presence provided numbers and chaos. Now, I’m not a Jake Muzzin guy (OK, fine, I’ve written 17 sonnets about him), but this game was yet another representation of how ferociously his game has rebounded this season. He was physical deep in his own zone, he was shutting off plays – including a nice snuff-out of a dangerous Henrik-to-Daniel Sedin feed from behind the net in the second period – and was quick at moving pucks out of the zone. I’m beating a dead horse here, but he’s been a clear-cut #2 defenseman this year.

Jeff Vinnick/NHLI

It was, again, an important win for the Kings, who have two more difficult divisional games on the current trip. Vegas isn’t going anywhere. Anaheim, at nearly full health, will make their annual January-February surge. San Jose has played only 35 games (!), four less than Los Angeles and six less than St. Louis (!), and has shown no indications they’re vacating a playoff spot with committed checking and familiarly defensive-minded play under Peter DeBoer. They’ve played the fewest games in the league and are two points clear of the Ducks with four games in hand. The jury is still out on Calgary, a good team that appears to be squarely on the bubble and surprisingly hasn’t kicked its offense into gear yet. We haven’t seen Edmonton yet, but with both Andrej Sekera and Cam Talbot healthy again, they’re probably not a sub-.500 team for much longer. Los Angeles will need to improve their performances in and out of breaks in January, but the schedule otherwise sets up well for the Kings, who will play 15 of their final 22 games at home with only one real road trip over that span. Again, they’re still going to have to fight for a playoff spot, but they’re fighting from above, not from behind, and took care of business with two points against a divisional team in a game they were mostly in control of on Saturday night.

Jeff Vinnick/NHLI

-Lead photo via Jeff Vinnick/NHLI

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Jake Muzzin

#6 | 6′ 3″ | 216 lb | Age: 27

Born: Feb 21, 1989
Birthplace: Woodstock, ON, CAN
Position: D
Handedness: Left

Bio

Muzzin was drafted in 2007 by the Pittsburgh Penguins, before signing to the Kings in 2010. He has since become the first Woodstock, Ontario professional athlete to win a major sports trophy.
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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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Tyler Toffoli

#73 | 6′ 1″ | 200 lb | Age: 24

Born: April 24, 1992
Birthplace: Scarborough, ON, CAN
Position: C
Handedness: Right

Bio

Toffoli is a Canadian professional ice hockey forward, drafted by the Kings in the second round of the 2010 Draft. Toffoli scored his first career NHL goal in his second game in a 4–0 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes in 2013. He was also named the 2012–13 AHL All-Rookie Team.
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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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