It was a relaxing Christmas break for defenseman Drew Doughty, who returned home to London, Ontario without the weight of any mental luggage.
“It was nice to just go home and see my family and have a little fun with them and just relax,” he said. “Sit on the couch and enjoy Christmas and the Christmas spirit and not have to think about hockey at all the whole time I was there. I just didn’t think about it. I was home, having fun.”
That decompression period is behind him, and if he needs any sort of competitive awakening that the season has resumed – not that it wasn’t felt during yesterday’s practice – it will come when he looks across the ice and sees defenseman Shea Weber in a gold and navy jersey.
Both Doughty and Weber will trade their club colors for a Maple Leaf-adorned jersey this February. The two are locks to play on the right side of a star-studded Canadian blueline that is also likely to feature Alex Pietrangelo.
Doughty spoke about how he embraced his match-up with P.K. Subban prior to Los Angeles’ 6-0 win over Montreal on December 10. “Even though it’s a matchup between both teams, in order for us to win, I think I have to outplay P.K. So I’m definitely looking forward to that challenge tonight, and I’ve got to be the best defenseman on the ice,” he said following that morning’s skate.
With Weber on the opposite end of the ice tonight, there’s ample admiration towards the skill set of one of his opponents.
“I think Webs is one of the best D-men in the league,” Doughty said. “People gave P.K. that Norris last year, and not that he didn’t deserve it at all, but I think that overall Weber’s more of a complete defenseman. I think P.K. is one of the best offensive defensemen in the league, without a doubt. But when you watch Shea Weber every night, he’s hard to play against. Forwards don’t want to play against him because they know how hard he plays and he’s physical. He’s got that slapshot that no one wants to block, too. I love watching him play. I had the opportunity to play with him in a few tournaments and I think I actually learned a little bit from him, just from watching him play defense.”
Does Darryl Sutter notice any change in Doughty’s game when he opposes another elite defenseman?
“No, we want him to get back to his game, because it hasn’t been there lately. So it’s not who he’s playing against. It’s playing his game,” Sutter said.
“He plays every night against the best players, and if the other players are having success, then that means that Drew hasn’t been quite on.”
Sutter was referencing one of Doughty’s less desirable performances of the season. In the final game before the Christmas break, he recorded one assist and a minus-two rating as the Kings had trouble containing the Benn-Seguin-Nichushkin line in a 5-2 loss to the Dallas Stars. In 11 December games, he has one goal, seven points and a plus-10 rating.
Doughty, on whether his performance in a shootout drill during Friday’s practice will help reinforce to the coaching staff that he could be used as a legitimate option:
I don’t know. I went one-for-two. My second wasn’t too good but it was [poor] ice out there, so I’ll blame the second one on the bad ice.
Doughty, on Robyn Regehr scoring multiple goals during the shootout drill:
Sniper. It’s because I’m always practicing my moves on the goalies and they don’t know his moves just yet. He shocks them and surprises them a little bit.