It was included in part of the trade’s justification: Not only was Milan Lucic a Clark Gillies-type winger, but his presence would redefine the way Marian Gaborik would be used by the Kings.
“We also wondered whether Gabby was better on the right, and this was a box we thought in an ideal world, get a player like Clark Gillies,” Dean Lombardi said on the evening of June 26.
That may ultimately happen, but after two games and one shuffling of the club’s top three lines, Lucic is now lining up alongside Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli, and like 14 other skaters on the roster – including Gaborik and Anze Kopitar – is yet to record his first point of the season.
Seasons aren’t won or lost two games in, though, and while there have been adjustments, there are certainly no calls for panic or alarm bells ringing.
“If you look at it, playing a left-handed centerman has been a been adjustment for him,” Darryl Sutter said of Lucic’s arrival. “Kopi can play with anybody. Kopi’s just good. That’s it. But when guys aren’t going with Kopi, then he’s doing all the work … and I think when they got Looch, it was widely talked about that Gaborik was going to go to right wing and Looch was going to go to left wing and it looks like a really good fit.”
Though the Kings didn’t skate Tuesday morning due to a power outage at their El Segundo practice facility, recent line rushes indicate that Dustin Brown will now skate to the right of Kopitar, with Gaborik returning to the left wing that he has played exclusively as a member of the club since his acquisition in March, 2014.
“Well, coaches pencil everything out, over and over and over. Until you see it, you don’t know if it works, and Gabby hasn’t played a lot of right wing. I know that was what was said, but I coached against Gabby a lot in the old Minnesota-Calgary division, so I would think it’s a big adjustment for Gabby going from left-to-right. It’s not easy. It’s like going from third base to second base. It’s just such a different game, and Looch going from the prime area he played with – and they’re good players, they’re like Kopi – Krejci and Bergeron, guys like that. But they’re right-handed guys. Big difference. You’re getting the puck here instead of there, and things like that. It’s such a difference. But he’s had a great attitude, works hard. No issues. For as little as I’ve coached him, I’ve enjoyed it.”
Carter, with whom Lucic will skate against Vancouver this evening, is a right-handed shot.
Kopitar, who also played with Justin Williams over stretches of the last four seasons, isn’t particular at all about who he plays with.
“Yeah, that doesn’t bother him. Like, he can pass it. I don’t think so,” Sutter said when asked whether Kopitar tailors his game to those he plays alongside. “If you look at it since we’ve been here, the first Cup, [Kopitar’s linemates were] Brownie and Willie, so he played with two righties. So he’s passing to one guy who’s playing his off-side a lot, if you look at that. After Gabby came, a lot of it was Gabby-Brownie, so they would probably be primarily suited. His assists or his distribution hasn’t dropped at all, if you look at it. It’s his goals that dropped last year. Hey, with Kopi, you just want him to be a little more almost selfish. Shoot more and beat the guy more – that sort of thing. Sometimes you watch Kopi, he almost works harder in his own zone than he does in the offensive zone. It means you’re an ultimate team guy.”
That praise should come as no surprise to those who have previously heard Los Angeles’ coach speak highly of his star center.
“Yeah, Kopi’s a good player,” Sutter concluded.