Kopitar, Penner and Hunter on the LA Kings new top-line

Somebody should send Justin Williams a thank you card.

His ‘flu-like symptoms’ have been a blessing in disguise today.

During the Kings first on-ice sessions today, the focus instantly changed from ‘Where’s Drew Doughty?’ to ‘Hey, who is that #47 playing on the top line with Anze Kopitar and Dustin Penner?’

It was right wing Trent Hunter, a camp invitee – meaning he’s here on a tryout basis.

Following the two-plus hour workout, coach Terry Murray said part of the reason for putting Hunter in Williams spot today was a reward for yesterday. It also had to do with the fact that Murray plans on ‘giving Hunter every opportunity to make the team this year.’ Although, Murray also acknowledged it will be tough for that to happen – given the roster depth already.

That decision is more than a week away though. For now, the three linemates had some thoughts about their temporary union…

Kopitar on playing with Hunter for the first time – “It was good. Obviously, he’s been int he league for a long time and he knows what he’s doing. It’s too bad that Willy is a little sick right now, but hopefully we’ll get him back soon as we can.”

Hunter on playing on the top line – “It’s fun playing with players of that calibre…If I had any questions, I’d ask them. They were both good about talking to me. Regardless of who you’re playing with, you have to communicate with them on the ice.”

Hunter on conversations with the Kings about his chances of making the team this season – “They were upfront and honest, right from the start. Nothing changed from one conversation to the next. It was always the same thing. So, I knew what I was coming to. They were very honest me. I realize I have to come in and play hard to win a spot here.”

Hunter on how his tryout came to be – “My agent had talked with them a few times late in the summer. It was definitely in the last few weeks. We were going back and forth trying to figure things out. There were a few options. But, we kept in touch with them and the decision was just made last week.”

Hunter also says he’s using this time in camp to get to know as many players as possible. About the only guy he knew previously was Colin Fraser – they trained together in Alberta a few summers ago.

Penner on the fact that it looks like there is something trying to keep him, Williams and Kopitar apart – “I think the hockey gods are just trying to make us earn it. We’re getting a couple of teasers right now, but it’s nothing serious with Willy and he’ll be back tomorrow.”

Was he surprised that Hunter was selected to replace Williams today? “No. He’s been around this league for a long time and he’s been a really good player. He’s smart, he’s big and he skates well. He thinks the game and he has a good shot. I don’t know him very well though. I’ve only played against him a handful of times because he’s always been out on the East Coast.”

Penner on their communication today – “If he was a rookie, we’d probably have to talk more. But, with a guy like that, a seasoned veteran, it’s pretty seamless.”

Kopitar on the drills they were working on in practice – “It’s back to basics. We’ve proven that we can we play a lot of good hockey the last couple of years. It’s just a matter of doing it on a consistent basis. That’s what they’ve been emphasising right now, just to get it going right off the bat and to get ready.”

OK, Williams did his part. Who wants to take some of the heat off Doughty next and create a one-day story?

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