Waking up with the Kings: February 22 - LA Kings Insider

The mind of a professional hockey player, mid-season, is a complex and insular place. These players are human, but the blinders are on, and the most successful players are able to square in on the immediate task at hand with minimal outside distractions. So, even though the LA Kings were basically a longshot to make the playoffs three weeks into the season, there was always the determination and focus that if they got back to playing the right way the uphill climb wasn’t insurmountable. Conversations alluding to lots of hockey left were prevalent. The most recent road trip added fuel to the illusion that they had crept into the playoff race as a legitimate participant. Six losses later, reality has settled. For the first time, after the game, the sound of inevitability, Mr. Anderson, was issued. Dustin Brown, long a voice for the state of the locker room, had to pause and change course when describing how the team would have to manage its frustration over the remainder of the schedule. “It’s a little different when you have to play games-” he said, recalibrating his words before segueing into a slightly more politically friendly observation that “right now we’re a losing team, so it’s difficult and a new experience for a lot of guys.” For Curtis Zupke and me, it wasn’t hard to fill in the blanks with the tacit admission that a core of champions, plus others who’d played for winning teams, was playing out the remaining games. Again, this was something those out the outside saw as the clear endgame after the six-game losing streak in October. But the pause and the unspoken words from someone who’d won two Stanley Cups, factored heavily into defeating the Presidents Trophy winners as an eight seed and had led a group back from a 3-0 playoff deficit served as striking punctuation to the most difficult season in many of these players’ lives.

John Russell/NHLI

The Kings didn’t play poorly in Nashville. There were a number of quality individual performances from the likes of Tyler Toffoli, Dion Phaneuf, Oscar Fantenberg and others. Michael Amadio scored and Austin Wagner collected an assist by getting to the net. There was good hustle. There was a concerted third period push that came up short because of playmaking and finishing ability that has become impotent. In the best of times, this was the type of game where that third period Jeff Carter goal was predictably around the corner. Lisa Dillman and I would sit in the press boxes across the league, circa 2012-16, virtually placing wagers on when Carter would score his game-tying or -winning third period marker. Whether by injury, investment or the simple march of time, Carter has just been a mystery this season, as have a number of his teammates. Without his typical production, and with the reductions across the board for this team, this just isn’t a threatening group offensively, and the Predators, though they weren’t at their best and may have become complacent in the third, never seemed out of control of the game and were able to snuff out the late-game looks with aplomb while a one-goal game hung in the balance.

John Russell/NHLI

The final 22 games will give us a good read on a number of players. Which younger players are building their games and putting themselves in position to grow their role on next year’s team? For the veterans, which players’ emotions and investments are clear and consistent? How does the leadership group handle the frustration of a lost season, and are they able to channel this into something that will benefit the younger players? How are some of the boldfaced names able to handle the speculation that they could be traded over the off-season? You can learn a lot about players when they’re losing 4-0, just as you can learn about them in games tied in the third period. The context is different between teams on their way up and those who underachieve, but for the first time in a decade, these types of questions have to be answered.

Danny Murphy/Icon Sportswire

–Lead photo via John Russell/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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