Tyler Toffoli, Tanner Pearson have been major parts of Kings' success

Tyler Toffoli, Tanner Pearson have been major parts of Kings' success
Kings forwards Tyler Toffoli, left, and Tanner Pearson played strong supporting roles in the Kings' 2014 Stanley Cup championship. (Stephen Dunn, Christian Petersen / Getty Images)

Kings center Anze Kopitar knew that Tanner Pearson's living quarters were not the best for someone recovering from surgery to repair a broken left leg.

In fact, he recognized the feeling of pain all too well, having broken his ankle late in 2010-11, a grim sight at Staples Center and an injury that ended his season early.

"I've been in pretty much the same boat a few years ago and I realize how it is," Kopitar said. "I've been to his house and it's stairs, stairs only. I realized he was going to have a tough time hobbling around."

Kopitar and his wife, Ines, immediately invited the youngster to stay at their house for a few days after the surgery. In fact, Pearson had a whole family on hand to help him, including Kopitar's mother and the soothing presence of Gustl, Kopitar's friendly dog.


"They were pretty good buddies, still are," Kopitar said, smiling.

There are growing pains along the twisting path to NHL prominence. Friends and linemates, Tyler Toffoli and Pearson — two-thirds of the Kings' top scoring line and a big part of their 2014 Stanley Cup drive — have become well-acquainted with that all-too-familiar phenomenon during this regular season.

Growing pains and discomfort became just a bit too literal for Pearson and Toffoli in January. Pearson broke his leg Jan. 10 against the Winnipeg Jets, one day after Toffoli was diagnosed with mononucleosis.

Once tests showed that Toffoli's spleen was not enlarged — as can be a consequence of the illness — he returned to action Jan. 28, but Pearson is expected to sit out the rest of the regular season.

"There's nothing you can do," Toffoli said last week. "It sucks. It sucks missing games. I know Tanner is feeling [bad]. He wants to be helping the team out as much as he can and there's nothing he can do.

"All we can do is hope for a speedy recovery. Hopefully he can be back before the playoffs."

Unfortunately for Pearson, he has been down this path previously, having broken his right leg in 2012, his draft year.

"I felt that one snap," he said. "But I didn't feel this one go until I started to try to skate on it. That's when I knew what was going on. You know, stuff happens. That's the way the game goes."

Said Kopitar: "It's unfortunate but sometimes it makes you stronger. Tyler came back really strong; has been a force for us ever since he came back from mono. I'm sure Tanner is going to do the same thing.

"We need them. They were carrying the team, those two and Carts [Jeff Carter], the first 15-20 games. They are two weapons we need."

After a rough start on the Kings' last trip, Toffoli has recaptured his October form. He had a turnover on the Florida Panthers' game-winning goal Feb. 5, but his response to that miscue has been positively textbook.

In the next four games, Toffoli recorded five goals and two assists, highlighted by a four-point performance Thursday against Calgary in a 5-3 win that included his first career hat trick. He leads the Kings with 18 goals and is the first Kings player to score a hat trick before his 23rd birthday since Kopitar pulled it off on Oct. 22, 2009.

"He's got the glow in his eye when he scores," said Michael Futa, the Kings' vice president of hockey operations and director of player personnel. "They are kids. When they are down, you can tell when they're down. They know what it's like to win and they want to win."

Futa has known Pearson, Toffoli and their families for years, and said he was on hand at the junior game in which Pearson broke his leg. Futa sounds one part draft guru, one part executive and one part father figure in talking about the kids.

They both turn 23 years old this year, and getting to the top with uncommon speed — winning the Stanley Cup in June — could have affected their attitude in a negative way.

But it hasn't.

"When you have all that success early, it can go two ways," Futa said. "You can sit on your lounger and talk about how cool it was or you can work that much harder to make sure you get another chance at it.

"Both of them and the environment around here is a huge part. They want it and they want more and they want success.

"They're both unique in the sense that they're both individually selfish for all the team reasons, if that makes any sense. There's a swagger to them that is not arrogance; it's confidence."


When: 7:30 p.m. PST, Monday.

Where: Staples Center.

On the air: TV: Fox Sports West; Radio: 790.

Etc.: It all started to turn around with the Kings' game against the Lightning at Tampa on Feb. 7. They had lost the first three games of a tough trip, and then the Kings reeled off four straight wins, starting with a 4-2 win over the host Lightning. Kings Coach Darryl Sutter changed his mind and tweaked the practice schedule, giving his players the day off Sunday. Kings defenseman Drew Doughty seemed like a target in Saturday's game against Washington, but Sutter reported Sunday that Doughty was fine.

Twitter: @reallisa