Here’s forward Justin Williams on playing fantasy Game 7s in his driveway or park or local rink when he was a youngster and whether that prepared him as an adult:
“Of course it’s Game 7. It’s usually the Stanley Cup finals, too. It’s the same thing in any other sport. It’s the last seconds of the game and the buzzer’s coming down. It’s the ninth inning and two outs. It’s football and it’s the fourth quarter. It’s everything. It’s you or them and that’s what you relish as a kid, coming out on top. I don’t think you can really prepare much for this. You just go out and trust your instincts and, hopefully, they’ll bring you to success.”
It was no coincidence that Kings center Anze Kopitar began to heat up after the acquisition of forward Marian Gaborik from the Columbus Blue Jackets before the March 5 trade deadline. Kopitar had 18 points, including 10 goals, in the 19 games after Gaborik joined the Kings for a March 6 game against the Winnipeg Jets. Kopitar went on to lead the Kings with 70 points and 29 goals in 82 games. Gaborik finished the season with 30 points, including 11 goals, in 41 games. He had 16 points, including five goals, after he was dealt to the Kings.
“Once he came here, you try to get to know him as quick as you can and build some chemistry and I think me, Marian and Justin have done a pretty good job,” Kopitar said, referring to Justin Williams, the third member of the Kings’ top line. “It feels like we’ve jelled together pretty well. I think all three of us want to play a give and go game. He’s certainly the type of player who likes to do that. We’ve talked about it. The offensive zone time, we’ve tried to mix it around and get a lot of zone time.”
When you look at the individual numbers, the facts are worse. The Kings’ leading scorer, Anze Kopitar, ranks only 34th in the NHL with 47 points (17 goals, 30 assists). Their leading goal-scorer, Jeff Carter, also ranks only 34th in the league with 20 goals. Kopitar is 56th with 17 goals. The Kings have only six players on their roster with 10 goals or more and only Carter and Kopitar have 15 or more.
Further, some of their best players have been mired in prolonged slumps. Mike Richards’ skid has received perhaps the most attention, but he’s not alone and he’s not the driest player on the roster. Richards’ last goal was Jan. 18 against Detroit. He has only two goals since Nov. 25. Overall, he has seven goals and 36 points.
Dustin Brown, the Kings’ team captain, hasn’t scored since Jan. 13. He has one point on the road this season, a goal against the Ducks on Dec. 13. Overall, he has 10 goals and 16 points. Justin Williams’ last goal was Jan. 9 against Boston. He has 14 goals and 29 points.
Reminder: Saturday’s game is early for us on the West Coast. Fox Sports West and KTLK-1150 will carry the game starting at 11 a.m. … The Kings appeared to be in trouble when No. 1 goaltender Jonathan Quick, the MVP of their Stanley Cup championship run in 2012, suffered a groin strain Nov. 12 against the Buffalo Sabres. Nothing could be further from the truth, however.
The Kings’ bid for a franchise-record 12th consecutive game with at least one point came to a halt when they lost Saturday to the Calgary Flames. The prevailing thought in the dressing room was simply to “park it,” as defenseman Willie Mitchell phrased it Sunday. In other words, put it out by the curb and walk away from it. The Kings (16-7-4) have issues, starting with their faulty power play. They haven’t scored a man-advantage goal in the last five games, going 0 for 18. Right wing Justin Williams said the Kings need more shots from point-blank range instead of firing them from the perimeter while on the power play.
Williams scored the Kings’ lone goal Saturday, the 200th of his NHL career. Anze Kopitar had an assist for his 500th point. The teams meet for the first time since the Kings defeated the Blues in the first round of the playoffs last spring. The Blues are 18-4-3 and have the league’s second-best power play (22 for 89, 24.7 percent). Alexander Steen was tied with Ryan Getzlaf of the Ducks for third in scoring with 31 points (20 goals, 11 assists), as of Sunday morning. Only Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals (21) had more goals than Steen. Each had played 20 games.
Justin Williams said Sunday he didn’t have the puck he shot into the net for his 200th career goal. Anze Kopitar, whose assist on Williams’ goal Saturday was his 500th point, wasn’t available to talk because the Kings had an optional practice Sunday. Kings media relations czar Jeff Moeller also didn’t know who took possession of the potential keepsake. Moeller said someone on the Kings’ staff ends up with all the pucks that end up in the opponents’ nets at Staples Center. The whereabouts of this one remained a mystery as of Sunday afternoon, however.
Anze Kopitar’s third-period assist on Justin Williams’ game-tying goal Saturday against the Calgary Flames was Kopitar’s 500th NHL point and produced Williams’ 200th career goal. It was all but lost in the Kings’ 2-1 loss to the Flames, however. Kopitar is the seventh player in Kings’ history to reach 500 points. He has played with the Kings for all of his carer. Williams has also played with the Philadelphia Flyers and the Carolina Hurricanes in his 15-season career.
Kings defenseman Matt Greene did not join his teammates for their hourlong practice Wednesday, and he is not expected to play in Thursday’s game against the Buffalo Sabres. He has an undisclosed injury… Right wing Justin Williams returned to the practice rink one day after Kings coach Darryl Sutter went him to the dressing room midway through the workout because he couldn’t keep pace. … Williams skated on a line with center Anze Kopitar and left wing Dustin Brown. Their line was broken up by Sutter in Saturday’s game against the Nashville Predators. … Center Jarret Stoll continued to be sidelined by an unspecified upper-body injury. He was injured in Saturday’s 4-3 loss to the Predators.
Jeff Carter, who is on injured reserve because of a foot injury and Jarret Stoll (upper-body injury) didn’t skate with their Kings teammates Tuesday, and there was no telling when they might be back on the ice. Justin Williams joined them on the sidelines when he couldn’t keep up with the pace of practice, according to Kings coach Darryl Sutter. The Kings had a conditioning-based workout Sunday, took a day off Monday and then went back to X’s and O’s on Tuesday.
Said Sutter: “Old guys, right? You learn the pace. There’s a pace they have to play at, a pace they have to practice at.”
Reporter: “Was it punitive?”
Sutter: “What’s punitive?”
Sutter: “I thought you asked if he was puking.”
Pause for laughter.
Sutter: “You don’t kick guys off the ice because they’re not working. You keep them out there to work.”
The Kings’ victory Wednesday over the San Jose Sharks extended their mastery over their Pacific Division rivals to 11-0-1 in their last 12 games at Staples Center, including the regular season and playoffs. The Kings won all four games against the Sharks at Staples Center in their second-round playoff series last spring, underscoring the value of home-ice advantage during the postseason. The Sharks went 10-1-1 to lead the NHL with 21 points before losing to the Kings 4-3 in overtime Wednesday. The Kings could have fallen seven points behind the Sharks, but by winning in OT, they moved within four. The Pacific Division race is one that bears monitoring all season, if for no other reason than the team with home-ice advantage will have an edge in the playoffs.