After an LAX arrival in the wee hours of the morning, the Kings reconvened at Toyota Sports Center on Sunday for work-outs and meetings, with a partial group of players taking the ice shortly after 11:00 a.m. Drew Doughty and Anze Kopitar answered a number of questions about the team’s play and their own seasons – more to come from those players – before John Stevens spoke with the assembled media.
First, here’s Doughty’s After Hours segment with Scott Oake and Louie DeBrusk from after last night’s Hockey Night in Canada game. He spoke about his loyalty to the Kings and what’s most important to him in the context of a contract that expires after the 2018-19 season, shooting some On the Bench videos, why Alec Martinez was his favorite character in Dewy Show, and whether he’ll have new teeth by the end of the summer.
Secondly, quotes from today’s practice:
John Stevens, on Jake Muzzin’s comment after Saturday’s game about emotional preparedness:
Probably what he’s referring to is we just came off the road where he played Minnesota, Winnipeg, Colorado, all teams that you’re fighting with for position in the league. I think you go into Edmonton where they’re not in a position to fight for a playoff spot. You still respect them that they’re a good team and a very dangerous team, but it doesn’t have the emotional level in terms of the implications and the standings and the playoffs. I think whether you like it or not, it’s almost like a trap game. The guys go there with preparation, they talk about playing the game the right way, I just thought we started the game a little bit slow, and McDavid’s a guy that can make you play in a hurry. Got behind early in that hockey game. Now we use a lot of energy to catch up, but having said that, I thought the guys were emotionally invested in the game. I thought the guys played hard. We still gave ourselves a chance to get a point in the hockey game. I speak for Muzz, but that was certainly our interpretation in terms of the way the schedule worked out there. You go from playing three teams that are all right in the same group with you to a team that’s not in that group. It does change the mindset a little bit. As hard as you approach it the same way, it doesn’t always work out that way.
Stevens, on whether he’s liked Toby Rieder’s presence alongside Tanner Pearson and Jeff Carter:
He’s been really good. Quite honestly, he’s been comfortable on left wing, but his speed on that line, I thought he was really good with that line for a couple games. I thought he really hunted the puck, used his speed to either create on the rush or create disruption defensively, so I actually think he played a strong couple games for us.
Stevens, on any player or forward in the league that impacts the game as much as Anze Kopitar:
Usually when you look at winning teams, they have players like that. Kopi, I think he’s a dominant player in the league. If you look at teams that have players that are their best offensive players and their best defensive players, and they put value on the defensive side of the puck as much as they do the offensive side of the puck, there are comparisons out there. I’ve always felt Jonathan Toews is one of those guys, Marian Hossa as a winger is always one of those guys. Bergeron on Boston is a guy that I have great respect for in terms of how he plays the game. I think Getzlaf, the year he’s playing this year. It’s not surprising those teams are deep into the battle for playoff position when they have players like Kopitar on them, but I think Kopi’s been a dominant player for us all year. But it’s not an ‘offensive player’ – he’s a dominant player on both sides of the puck.
Stevens, on whether it’s a luxury to have a player like Drew Doughty, who enjoys defensive as much as offensive responsibilities:
Again, I think it’s a big reason why this team’s had success here. When you have your best offensive players, I think teams in the east that don’t get to see Kopi and Drew every day, you hear their names, and they think you think of their offensive prowess, but when you really get a chance to watch them play, you get a great appreciation for just how much value they put on keeping the puck out of their net. I think Drew is one of, if not the best, defender in the league. I know how competitive he is. He hates getting scored on. Two-on-one even in a game-day practice, he tries as hard as he can not to allow a scoring chance to happen. That’s an attribute for him that he’s always had. He’s one of the most competitive guys we’ve ever had, but he applies it to both sides of the puck. His impact on the outcome of hockey games, I don’t know if there’s a defenseman in the league that impacts it on both sides of the puck as he does.
Stevens, on indications early in games that his team is playing competitively and the right way:
I think if your team’s ready to go, faceoffs is a good competitive indicator. I think just the reaction and the movement, and not just your centermen, it’s pucks off of faceoffs. I think the faceoff shows a state of readiness, and we just like our team to play with pace early, which is usually an indication of shift length. Manage the puck forward where we’re getting pucks in behind. I’d just like to see our gaps with and without the puck in a good place. That’s usually a work indicator for us. Obviously going into the game last night and giving up an early goal, I think there was some confusion on that play, but at the end of the day, you don’t want to be in a situation where you have to chase the game on the road. It’s something we’ve got to learn from. Quite honestly, even the Colorado game, we started a little bit slow there in the first couple minutes, but again, I think there are critical moments in a game and how you react to things. I thought the Kopitar goal in the Colorado game was huge for us. I think that game could’ve gone either way. When we scored right after they had scored, I just thought that momentum shift was huge for us. You look at last night, I thought the goal that made it 2-1 was huge for us, and I think the goal that made it 3-1 for them was really a critical moment in the hockey game. At the end of the day, it’s really a 60-minute hockey game, but you’d like to make sure that you don’t have self-inflicted wounds early on.
Stevens, on whether Anze Kopitar is “carrying the team” offensively, even if it’s a “cliché”:
It’s not a cliché. Jon will tell you analytically, it’s a proven fact, right? I think he’s probably the top-five in percentage of finding offense for our hockey team, but having said that, I think we’ve gotten some good production from other spots in our lineup. I don’t know where we’re at right now, but as of the other day, we’re top-five in points from a defenseman as a group, which has always been a strength of our hockey team. Kopi and Brownie have really carried the load offensively for us, but offensively and defensively, we got big production out of Kempe this year we weren’t sure we were going to get, and I think a guy like Trevor Lewis has really given us some secondary scoring along with Toffoli and Pearson and guys that we expect. Having Jeff come back into the fold certainly enhances our ability to come by even more than just Kopi, but I do think we’ve been making some progress at getting some secondary production away from Kopi’s line, but there’s no question he’s carried the load.
Drew Doughty, on whether he plays looser or more conservative late in the season:
No, we’re a pretty conservative as a team I’d say, just in general. And you know that’s how we win hockey games. That’s how we’ve won for so many years. So, yeah you’re not cheating for offense, you’re trying to do it all the right way. So, we’re not trying to be over-conservative, but just playing our good defensive hockey and you know John keeps talking to us about the team game and if everyone has their team game in order we’ll win hockey games so we’re just looking to do that and have everyone show up every single night because you need everyone. [Reporter: How about from a personal standpoint?] Eh, I’m not trying to conserve anything. I’m just trying to go out there and play my best and you know be the best defenseman on the ice every single night. And yeah, I want to win us hockey games and you know I know I have the capability to do that so I need to start doing it.
Doughty, on the challenges summoning emotion over 82 games:
Oh, this is the time of the year when it’s easy to get up emotionally. You know, if you’re not ready for these games emotionally and you’re not excited for this challenge you might as well just take your equipment off and not be ready to go because this is the best time of year. You know, those games thirty to fifty or whatever, those are the times when it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, like another game. Oh we’ve got Florida tonight and I don’t even know half their players.’ But this time of year is the best time of year and everyone’s ready to go every game and we’re looking forward to the challenge and yeah, it’s the most fun time of the year. [Reporter: Is it a little bit tougher though, two days later after a game like in Colorado when Kopi scored the four goals and everybody’s jacked up sky high and then two days later playing a team that’s not even in the playoff race? Does that make it tougher?] I don’t think so. You know we know that that team, they’re not playing for anything. That they’re just playing for, you know, to keep their job for the next season and I think basically trying to get McDavid in the scoring race. … But, we had a great game in Colorado and we were feeling confident in ourselves going into that Edmonton game and to be honest, before the game it really felt like we were going to come out there, get that lead, and put the game away early. And that was our focus, but we weren’t able to do that and we still had our chances to tie it up and you know really, a couple of their goals were a little bit lucky to be honest. And we could’ve won that game, but we still didn’t have a good enough effort to make sure that we won that game.
Doughty, on facing a rival in Calgary that will be without Matthew Tkachuk and other key figures:
Calgary, I think they made the playoffs last year and we didn’t, so that’s the way we’ve got to look at it. They took our spot in the playoffs last year, so it’s our turn to take theirs and we’re obviously disappointed with the loss the other night and we’re going to have one of our best efforts of the year tomorrow.
Doughty, on Derek Forbort joining the cycle in the offensive zone last night:
Yeah, he was dancing a little bit, and I’m trying to encourage him to do that. He’s very capable of it, I think he’s just kind of settled into, ‘I’m kind of the defensive defenseman.’ But he has the capabilities to do things offensively, so you know we’ve just got to keep telling him, go ahead I can cover for you,’ just like he covers for me all the time. So, I want him to get up in the rush, and obviously it’s probably my job to be up there more, but I love that how well he’s playing and I love playing with him.
Doughty, on the challenges of facing a team “that has nothing to play for”:
For sure, because they’re going to be cheatin’ [for offense] and trying to get their points individually. So, they’re going to try to be cheatin’ behind us so as long as we play our game defensively sound and not allowing those people to get behind us, we’ll be fine because when you start cheatin’ for offense that’s how it goes in the wrong direction and you know, we know how that goes. So as long as we play our game we should be fine. [Reporter: And it sounds like you want to push the gas pedal as a team, right?] Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, we’ve got to get the lead and that’s the way to beat teams that are not in it. You’ve got to get the lead and you’ve got to keep putting goals in the net and you know make it a three-goal deficit for them and then they’re going to probably shut it down, that’s what you would think anyway, but it doesn’t always happen that way. [Reporter: You pointed out that guys who are going to try to play for their jobs are going to be dangerous.] Oh, yeah, no one’s going to not play hard on that team just because they’re out of the playoffs doesn’t mean— you play for pride, you play because you love the game, you play for that crest on your sweater, and that’s just the bottom line. They’re not going to take it—they’re trying to beat us, I absolutely guarantee it. We’re having a little rivalry with them and you know they don’t want us in the playoffs, so they’re going to play their butts off.
-Several quotes withheld for an upcoming LAKings.com story and for tomorrow’s morning skate notes
-Lead photo via Norm Hall/NHLI