|Anze Kopitar (photo: D. Sheehan)|
Anze Kopitar may not talk about it, but this road has a familiar feel to it. Over the last few seasons, the Kings’ highest paid player has spent time on a line with Wayne Simmonds, Brad Richardson and Trent Hunter, just to name a few. And with all due respect, none of them were top-six caliber forwards at the time, but placed on his wing out of necessity.
Even if there was some initial success, all experiments ended the same – with said player being returned to a more ‘natural’ role.
LA’s omnipresent lack of scoring led to a line shuffling today, which netted rookie Jordan Nolan – a former seventh round draft pick with all of four NHL career games – as Kopitar’s new left wing.
“I saw him a little in training camp,” said Kopitar, when asked how familiar he even was with Nolan. “If I’m not mistaken, we were on the same team that went to Phoenix for the pre-season game (during a split-squad series with the Coyotes). So, I knew the guy a little bit.”
Nope, Nolan didn’t make that trip. He stayed behind and played in the game at Staples Center. Fortunately for the 22-year old newbie, he’s made a little more of a distinct impression over the last 10 days.
“(Nolan’s) been really good for us since he was called up,” Kopitar remarked. “He’s had some strong games and he scored a goal too. So, all he needs to do is continue doing what he’s been doing. Willie (Justin Williams) and I need to pick it up.”
That’s exactly what Darryl Sutter is looking for. As reported earlier today, the Kings coach has heard enough about ‘team’ – he wants to hear more about what Kopitar and Dustin Brown are going to do individually.
And whether it be from the lack of offense or the persistent trade rumors at this time of the year, there’s no denying the heat is rising in more than just the Arizona desert the Kings traveled to on Monday.
“Things are definitely a little tense in here,” Kopitar admitted. “We wanted to be in a different spot at this time of the year. If you look at the beginning of the season, we started off pretty good. By now, we wanted to be in a different spot…We have to push through it, though. There’s no excuse for it.”
Well, that’s a good start to taking personal responsibility – no excuses.
Next, Sutter wants to see some goal production from the Kings’ top center. Just don’t talk to him about how Nolan may aid in the process of jump starting Kopitar, who has only two goals in his last 10 games.
“I think that (position) is totally interchangeable. We’re just trying to get Kopitar to play,” said Sutter. “It’s got nothing to do with Jordan Nolan, or who that winger is.”
So, just to be clear, this has everything to do with Anze Kopitar.
The Kings need more from him right now.
NOTE: If you missed Sutter’s full comments from earlier today and the reaction from Brown, several related articles are linked below for your reference.