Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin didn’t have a chance to break into the lineup slowly. He was tossed in there because of injuries and, in time, it was clear that he belonged. He said he learned a great deal from the Kings’ veteran group of defensemen, including Matt Greene. Muzzin took Greene’s spot in the lineup for the better part of the regular season, and Greene acted as a mentor while recovering from back surgery. Said Muzzin:
Kings rookie defenseman Jake Muzzin would have played the season with the Manchester (N.H.) Monarchs of the American Hockey League if not for prolonged injuries to Matt Greene and Willie Mitchell. Greene missed all but a handful of games because of back surgery and Mitchell never played a shift after undergoing offseason knee surgery. Muzzin filled a glaring void and kept the Kings on track for a second consecutive Western Conference finals trip. Muzzin grew into the role and wouldn’t be knocked out of the lineup even after the acquisition of Robyn Regehr and Greene’s return from surgery.
Kings coach Darryl Sutter wasn’t asked about it after the morning skate at Staples Center, but it sure looked as if defenseman Jake Muzzin was back in the lineup for Game 3 on Tuesday night after sitting out a 4-2 loss Sunday in Game 2. Alec Martinez, who replaced Muzzin, appeared to be out of the lineup for Game 3. Muzzin took a hard hit near the end of the Kings’ loss Saturday in Game 1. The was no official word on an injury.
Jake Muzzin conducted a wide-ranging interview with reporters after Saturday’s practice in El Segundo. He fielded a variety of questions, perhaps the most intriguing of which centered on his ability to make the most of an opportunity to play with the Kings after prolonged injuries to veteran defenseman Matt Greene (back) and Willie Mitchell (knee).
Here’s some of what the rookie defenseman had to say:
“I know I have to continue playing well, and continue working and getting better, and I have lots to improve on and stuff like that. With these new guys coming in and old guys coming back in, it’s good for the team. It’s a competitive environment in here, which brings the best out in all the guys. I just have to continue working and getting better, and hopefully I continue playing with ‘Greener.’”
Here’s what he said when asked about forming a defense pair with Greene:
“Well, we all know what ‘Greener’ brings to the table. He’s a big, physical guy. Simple, hard working. So I just want to continue working hard, being physical like I have been and moving pucks. Hopefully, I contribute on the power play and just continue moving here.”
Here’s what he said when asked about feeling more settled with the Kings:
“I feel a little bit more comfortable. I mean, when you’re first here, you don’t want to make a mistake because you feel like you may be sent down or out of the lineup and stuff like that. But the game’s full of mistakes, and you have to play like you’re not afraid, right? You’re going to make mistakes, so you might as well go out and play. I have kind of settled down a little bit in that aspect of the game and I have to continue with that, actually. You’ve got to play confident and comfortable out there. You’re going to make more mistakes if you were trying to play, like, “Oh, I’m scared not to make a mistake.’”
After a few false starts, Jake Muzzin’s hard work translated into NHL success. He went into Sunday night’s game against the Dallas Stars with seven goals, tops among Kings’ defensemen, and nine assists in 41 games since he was promoted from Manchester (N.H.) of the American Hockey League.
In fact, in spite of his low, hard and accurate shot from the perimeter, Muzzin might still be toiling in the minor leagues for Manchester if not for injuries that sidelined defensemen Matt Greene (back) and Willie Mitchell (knee) for almost all of the lockout-shortened season.
Greene returned to the lineup Thursday, but Muzzin kept his spot in part because of his play on the Kings’ power play. Kings coach Darryl Sutter scratched Keaton Ellerby for Thursday’s victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets in order to clear a spot for Greene.
Muzzin also stayed in the lineup because he plays the left side and not the right, pushing out Alec Martinez.
“Quite honestly, I don’t like talking about it because those kids (Muzzin, Ellerby and Martinez) have helped us get to where we are and they’re important players for us,” Sutter said. “So, it’s not like ‘Muzz’ has stayed in because he’s ahead (of the others).
“He’s a different type of player and he plays a different side. And he can’t play the right side. Basically, Keaton got bumped out of the lineup and ‘Muzz’ has played ahead of (Martinez) when you look at it. That’s the position.”
Sidney Crosby had his family’s dryer. Jake Muzzin had his family’s fence.
Every young Canadian hockey player has to practice his shot somewhere, and while the Muzzin family fence will never be as famous as the Crosby’s dryer, it served its purpose. Muzzin developed his heavy shot from near the blue line by wearing out a fence with a steady barrage of pucks.
Voting is underway for the Kings’ 2012-13 season awards. Just got my ballot and am starting to give it some thought. My initial reaction on the awards:
MVP (Bill LIbby Memorial Award): I’m leaning toward forward Jeff Carter with a team-leading 24 goals in 43 games.
Best Newcomer (Mark Bavis Memorial Award): I’m thinking about rookie defenseman Jake Muzzin with seven goals and nine assists and a plus/minus rating of plus-14.
Outstanding Defenseman: Leaning toward Slava Voynov, who’s having a breakthrough season with five goals and 19 assists.
Best Defensive Player: Toss-up between forward Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams, who have been terrific two-way players this season.
These are the awards voted on by reporters. The players vote on the Most Inspirational (Ace Bailey Memorial Award) and Unsung Hero.
The Kings played almost all of the lockout-shortened season without veteran defensemen Matt Greene and Willie Mitchell. Greene could be back soon after undergoing back surgery after playing one game. Mitchell is out for the duration after undergoing two knee surgeries. Their absence created a void and young players Keaton Ellerby and Jake Muzzin filled in capably, giving the Kings the sort of boost they needed to stay competitive.
Defenseman Jake Muzzin recorded 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in 17 games for the Kings in March, and the NHL honored him Monday as its Rookie of the Month. Not bad for a guy who would still be playing for the Manchester (N.H.) Monarchs of the American Hockey League if not for injuries to veteran defensemen Matt Greene (back) and Willie Mitchell (knee). Muzzin, 24, proved to be more than just a fill-in when he scored two goals and added an assist in the Kings’ 6-4 victory March 5 over the St. Louis Blues. He’s a capable passer who has played an effective role as a power-play quarterback.
Tyler Toffoli scored his first NHL goal in his second game with the Kings, a power-play strike midway through the second period Monday night at Staples Center. Toffoli’s goal, off a rebound from near the left goal post, gave the Kings a 2-0 lead. Toffoli, a 20-year-old forward, was the second rookie to score in the game for the Kings. Defenseman Jake Muzzin scored the Kings’ first goal, also on a power play, in the first period. Muzzin’s goal was his sixth in his 25th NHL game.