Sports

Kings' Jeff Carter can relate to new guy Marian Gaborik

SportsLos Angeles KingsMarian GaborikJeff CarterDarryl SutterAnze KopitarEdmonton Oilers

WINNIPEG, Canada -- Kings forward Jeff Carter was once the new kid in town, attempting to fit in with a tight group late in the term.

Big transitions, in life and work, aren't always seamless.

And so, Carter fully sympathized with new teammate, winger Marian Gaborik, who was acquired Wednesday from Columbus. Gaborik had a long travel day, getting routed through Toronto, before he joined the team in Winnipeg late that night and made his Kings' debut Thursday.

For Gaborik, there were moments of tentativeness and other spells of chemistry with new linemates Anze Kopitar and forward Justin Williams in a 3-1 victory over the Jets.

"It's not easy, obviously," Carter said. "There's a lot that you have to learn in a short period of time.

"He had a lot thrown at him with systems and new linemates and new teammates and what-not. It's going to take a few games for him to feel comfortable. But again, he's a skilled guy, such a top-tier player. Expect it won't take too long for him to fit in."

At least Carter didn't walk into a dressing room full of strangers when he joined the Kings from the Columbus Blue Jackets two years ago before the trade deadline. There were familiar faces — his close friend and former teammate in Philadelphia, Mike Richards, and defenseman Drew Doughty, another buddy from back home in London, Ontario.

"This is an easy room to come into," Carter said.

Gaborik played with Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell early in their careers with the Minnesota Wild. They helped the Wild reached the Western Conference Final in 2003, losing to Anaheim in a four-game sweep.

His new linemate, Kopitar, is not a countryman, by the way. Gaborik is from Slovakia. Kopitar, who is from Slovenia, joked at the Olympics that people might finally be able to tell the difference between the countries after Slovenia did so well in hockey at the Sochi Games, reaching the quarterfinals.

"Exactly. They mix it up a lot," said Gaborik, looking amused.

A lot has been made about how well Gaborik will coexist with the defensive-minded philosophy of Kings Coach Darryl Sutter. But even Doughty pointed out Gaborik played in a like-minded system in Minnesota. In fact, the Kings are almost like a wide-open, free-lancing group compared to those Minnesota teams under then coach Jacques Lemaire.

Sutter scoffed at the notion that there would be an issue. He praised Gaborik as "a hockey IQ guy."

"Those guys should really check and just see he's only been a minus-player once," Sutter said. "He's averaged 37-some goals in his career. Some of those guys have played pretty good for me.

"He's well-schooled. The athlete in today's game, it's about who has the puck, it's not about his defending. We're the top two or three in league in terms of having the puck, so he should fit in good with us."

Said Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi: "He has something we don't have. We don't need him to be 'that guy' every night but you're going to have to win us a game here or there when we don't have our game going.

"That's what Chicago has done. Chicago can [struggle] and then [Patrick] Kane can just do something off the charts and they go home with the two points."

UP NEXT FOR THE KINGS

at EDMONTON

When: 5 p.m.

On the air: TV: FS West, Radio: 1150.

Etc: Welcome to the home of former Southern California goalies. The Oilers have had five goaltenders suit up this season, including former King Ben Scrivens. Viktor Fasth, who was acquired Tuesday from the Ducks, will be No. 6 at some point. Scrivens, who was traded Jan. 15 to the Oilers, signed a two-year contract extension Monday with Edmonton. He is 4-4 with the Oilers, which includes one shutout.

lisa.dillman@latimes.com

Twitter: @reallisa

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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SportsLos Angeles KingsMarian GaborikJeff CarterDarryl SutterAnze KopitarEdmonton Oilers
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