In his career, Anze Kopitar has scored 10 of his 163 regular season goals vs the Avalanche. Yet, none of them will likely mean as much as one he could score tonight.
For starters, Los Angeles was swept by Colorado last season and the Kings managed to only produce five goals total over the four-game season series. So, having their leading points producer of the last five years back in the line-up couldn’t have come at a better time.
Second, LA’s offense was also anemic vs. the Blackhawks on Saturday. And with the importance of every game heightened in a 48-game season, it’s no surprise coach Darryl Sutter was saying ‘bring it or watch’ when talking about his top-6 forwards at practice yesterday. He needs offense from his big guns and he needs it now.
Finally, perhaps equally as important to Kopitar’s return, is the change it will bring for Dustin Brown. He was on Kopitar’s left side throughout the second half of last season and in all 20 playoff games (where the two tied for the team lead in goals and points). However, for the home opener this past weekend, Brown skated on the right side, next to Mike Richards at center.
“I’ve talked to him a little bit and I think he prefers the left side now,” said Kopitar. “For me, if I was a winger, I think I’d want to play on my off wing too. You just have more options. If you just cut to the middle you have the puck on your forehand side as opposed to driving from your strong side to the middle and having it on your backhand; sometimes it’s a little dangerous out there.”
Before boarding the team plane for Denver yesterday, Brown agreed.
“Part of that I think, from an offensive standpoint, is there are a lot more options for me on the left side,” remarked the 28-year old captain. “There are more options coming into the zone, which I think in turn means more scoring chances. More importantly though, bringing Kopi back into the line-up is good for our team…he’s a big part of our team and we get him back.”
When specifically looking at tonight’s game, Kopitar anticipates they’ll be entering hostile territory.
“Every game in Colorado, it’s an intense game,” he shared. “Their building is pretty loud and that’s going to be their home opener too. So, that’s going to be interesting to play there.”
For Colorado – and Edmonton, the Kings’ next opponent - team speed is also something Brown thinks LA will have to contend with.
“(Both of those teams) are fast and all their skill guys, or go-to guys, are young,” he explained. “That was our team a few years ago, you know? Where me and Kopi were the young guys and we just kind of went after it. Those teams are scary to play because they can turn it around pretty quickly on the offensive side of things. It’s a good test for our ‘team defense’ (approach) and I think that’s the key. That’s always been the key for us since we’ve (found) success here, play a strong D game and the rest kind of takes care of itself.”
Speaking of defense, Drew Doughty weighed in with a few thoughts as well.
“I don’t think (their speed) should give us any trouble,” he claimed. “We have a great team in here. Obviously we didn’t show up at the start of the last game and we were on our heels right off the beginning. So, going into (tonight)…they have a fast, good team. We have to come out hard on the forecheck and be the best team for the first ten minutes, no matter what.”
Reminder, MayorsManor is hosting a watch party for tonight’s game, check out all the details here. Hope you can make it down to share in the fun.
Also, as always, we have our First Goal Contest up too. Enter here to win a cool prize.
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