|Kings v Coyotes Thursday (photo: J. Weinberg)|
Brandon Kozun can rest a little easier.
Fresh off his rookie season in Manchester last year, he wasn’t talking like a player in a meaningless training camp game after Wednesday’s 8-7 loss to the Coyotes – where the Kings gave up five goals in the third period.
He was visibly upset and shared his frustrations following the game, calling the loss ‘unacceptable.’
While not on the level of a Mark Messier playoff promise – still, though – he all but guaranteed a win on Thursday. Per the plan, he and his teammates delivered.
Saying the Kings dominated the first period would be an understatement. After barely showing any signs of defensive life for the final 20 minutes of the game prior, they held the Coyotes to only three shots in the opening period of yesterday’s game. Then, only gave up eight more in the second. Goalie Martin Jones could have taken a nap in the crease there was such little action in front of him.
Like the night before, Kozun was again front and center for most of the action. He followed-up his two goal performance in the first game by assisting on three of the Kings four goals Thursday – and two of them were things of beauty.
First, he set up Linden Vey to put the Kings up 2-0, after Jordan Weal opened the scoring.
Following the game, Vey said, “It was good to get the win, especially after the way we lost yesterday.”
However, he also had some praise for the play of Kozun, saying “I thought Kozy was great in both games.” Indeed.
As for the fewer fights and less physical play in game two of the Coyotes-Kings rookie series, Vey said “We were moving the puck better. It’s tough to play physical when a team is moving the puck like that.”
So, perhaps that’s why Jordan Nolan – who’s normally known more for his fists than his soft hands – was able to have such an offensively rewarding day. He scored two goals, including the game winner – set up on highlight reel-like passes from Vey and Kozun.
Like Vey tipped his hat to Kozun, an offensive threat from anywhere on the ice, Nolan complimented Andy Andreoff and Michael Schumacher for what they brought to the table.
“Andy is a great player, he had a few goals the other night. He also can fight, he can hit – he can do it all,” said Nolan. “Schumacher is a European, but he’s a hard player. He works extremely hard and works the body, which is nice to see…I’m not sure how he was raised, but he’s a good hockey player. He’s going to be a power forward one day.”
Nolan has had a chance to see a little more of Schumacher than most of the Kings coaches this summer. The two were in Sault Ste Marie last month, along with Jake Muzzin, working out and getting ready for camp.
On the other side of the ice, Coyotes rookie Brett Hextall scored another goal – his third of the tournament.
For him, it was all about impressing the Phoenix management group…and one guy in the Kings front office.
“My dad (Ron Hextall) and I talked about this series throughout the summer and we had a little bit of fun with it. I was trying to get my mom and little brother to cheer for me and he was trying to get them to cheer for the Kings. For the moment to actually be here, I wanted to make sure I played all right and made him proud.”
Another member of the Coyotes who had some family watching was local kid, Colin Long – who assisted on Hextall’s third period goal.
“This wasn’t my home rink growing up, but I’ve played some tournaments here,” Colin said – in reference to the Toyota Sports Center.
“Growing up, I was never a Ducks fan, even though I live about 10 minutes from the Honda Center,” he went on to say. “I was actually a Kings fan in the early ’90s. After (Wayne) Gretzky was traded to LA, that’s really why I started playing hockey.”
Five other notes from the game –
* The MayorsManor three stars of the game were: Nolan (2 goals, including game winner), Kozun (3 assists), Vey (1 goal, 1 assist)
* Goalie Martin Jones finished the tournament with four periods played – 80 minutes, 42 shots faced, 38 saves.
* Tyler Toffoli was not as big of a factor in the second game as he was in the first.
* Nic Deslauriers continued to look good defensively…and he had an assist on the game-winning goal.
* Ray Kaunisto picked up seven penalty minutes on Thursday, but was kept off the score sheet – after having a goal and an assist in the first game.
Already the winner of the MayorsManor poll for ‘most impressive’ prospect in game one, I’m sure Kozun will receive his fair share of votes in today’s poll as well. However, with the play of Deslauriers, Nolan, Vey and others, he may not be able to claim back-to-back victories. We’ll see.
Please head over here to vote now.
You can also check out the post-game notes, quotes and three stars from game one – here.