Kings – Coyotes Preview with Eric Belanger

To get something of value, you have to give up something of value.

It’s an old adage when it comes to making trades in the NHL and it almost always proves true. Perhaps, not as often in the salary cap era – when more and more teams seem to be making ‘cap trades’ instead of ‘hockey trades’ (see Marco Sturm) – but, it certainly was true in the summer of 2006.

Shorty after Dean Lombardi arrived as the new GM of the Kings he started tweaking the roster, with one of his stated goals being to build his reserve list (i.e. add young players). In a trade that shocked some of the fan base he shipped popular Eric Belanger and young defenseman Tim Gleason to Carolina for Oleg Tverdovsky and an unknown blueliner named Jack Johnson.

Sure, in the years to come, many in the hockey world would come to sing the praises of Johnson. However, at the time, he was a college defenseman who had been drafted by the Hurricanes – hardly things that put you on the national hockey radar.

Belanger had cemented his place in Kings history five years earlier when, as a rookie, he scored an overtime goal to defeat the Detroit Red Wings in a playoff game known as the ‘Frenzy on Figueroa.’

Five teams later, Belanger now finds himself in Phoenix, having just signed a free agent contract there this past summer.  Prior to tonight’s Kings-Coyotes game we caught up with him…

MM: Dave Tippett, your coach in Phoenix, was somebody you knew from your time in LA – how is he different now than he was as an assistant with the Kings?

EB: As an assistant coach it’s a different role. I remember being young back then and he was always there for me with good advice. I had a good relationship with him and that was one of the main factors to come here when the deal fell through with Washington. He’s just a player’s coach. That’s what you want.

MM: Former teammates Luc Robitaille and Ian Laperriere speak so highly of you – can you talk for just a moment about what those two have meant to your career?

EB: Lappy was like a big brother when I came to LA. I lived at his house and he took me under his wing my first year. I learned a lot and I’ve tried to carry that forward with other guys when I’ve had the opportunity. Luc has been the same. He’s a guy who I watched growing up and he’s just been a role model for me. Those two guys have had a big impact on my career and now I’m happy to call those two guys friends. It doesn’t happen that much in this business, so it’s great to have those two guys as friends.

MM: Size up the game for us tonight – the two teams have met once so far this season, with the Coyotes winning 4-3 and you had 2 assists. What are the keys to the game for the Kings and the Coyotes?

EB: I watched a little of the (Kings) game in San Jose. They’re a young team that’s playing with a lot of confidence right now. Just looking at the standings, every game is a must win. It’s been like that for almost the whole year. We’re out of the playoffs right now. We played the Ducks last night and they’re coming in rested. So, we have to be ready to play our best, especially because it’s a division game and those points are huge right now.

MM: Going back to your time with the Kings, what’s your favorite memory?

EB: The first team you play for in the NHL is always special. Being drafted and playing my first game on a line with Luc and Ziggy Palffy was a big highlight. I think I had a goal and two assists. Scoring that overtime goal and being part of the playoffs my first year was pretty amazing too. I have a lot of great memories and made a lot of great friends in LA and it’s always going to be a special place for me.

MM: Along those lines, you’ve been traded a few times and then went through free agency last summer, was there ever a point where you thought maybe you were coming back to the Kings?

EB: Not really. You look at their team now and they have a lot of money invested in centers. I always felt that when I was traded it was a good trade for them. But, I always wished I could have stayed there my whole career. It doesn’t happen much these days. But, you never know. I still have some good years ahead of me and you never know what the future can hold.

MM: In a playoff game with the Capitals last year the cameras caught you removing a tooth. Did you realize that would become such a national story?

EB: No. I didn’t do it for the cameras or for anything else. There just happened to be a camera looking at me while I did it. It was just one of those things in the heat of the moment where I wanted to get back and help my team win. It’s ended up being a good thing for me I guess.

MM: Go out strong Eric, give us a prediction for the game – final score Kings-Coyotes…

EB: Oh boy…I have to say a 3-2 win for us. Hope I’m right (he laughs).

We’ll know in a couple of hours.

Tonight at 6pm PST in Phoenix the Kings will try to continue their recent hot streak, going for their fifth win a row.

It won’t come easy though.  As Belanger noted above, it should be a tight divisional game. The Coyotes already defeated them once this year (4-2 back in October) and the Kings have historically had trouble with goalie Ilya Bryzgalov (lifetime record of 12-4-0-2 vs LA, including 2-1-1 last season).

On the flip side, LA has gone 9-2-1 in the month of December and are arguably playing some of their best hockey of the season over the last two weeks.

Can they keep it rolling or will Belanger’s prediction hold true?

The Mayor
www.twitter.com/Mayor119
www.facebook.com/MayorsManor



RELATED ARTICLES:

Interview with Luc Robitaille

Interview with Ian Laperriere

Ryan Smyth on the Almost-King Ray Whitney (now with the Coyotes)

LA-MIN Game Preview with Patrick O’Sullivan

10 Tidbits on Marco Sturm

.

Recent Articles

NCAA West Regional - St. Cloud State vs Ferris State

Dev Camp Preview with Mikey Eyssimont, Kings 2016 Draft Pick

It’s been a whirlwind week for Mikey Eyssimont. The Colorado native was just drafted by the Kings last Saturday and now he finds himself in Los Angeles for the team’s annual Development Camp. With only one year of college experience under his belt – and expected to play a big role this upcoming season at […]

Brown Kings NHL 2015

Brown on Losing the Captaincy; Not Your Typical Conference Call

Dustin Brown met with the media today via a conference call to share his thoughts on no longer being captain of the Los Angeles Kings… and to say he was extremely candid would be more than understatement.
Partial opening comment on no longer being the captain:
“There are a lot of emotions [that come with this]. […]

Johnson Kings

UPDATED: LA Kings 2016 Development Camp Roster Info

As July 1st quickly approaches, most of the hockey world is discussing free agency. Simultaneously, we’re also just a few days away from the other annual summer tradition, Development Camp. In fact, dozens of the Kings top prospects will be arriving in Los Angeles over the weekend, with on-ice activity expected to begin on Monday […]

Major News Items

LAK Prospect No 1

LA Kings 2015-16 Prospect Rankings: No. 1 Revealed

We're finally ready to announce the name of which Los Angeles Kings prospect has nabbed the No. 1 spot in our bi-annual rankings of the team's future hopefuls. After working our way through a handful of Honorable … [Read More...]

More Prospect News