Kings’ Adrian Kempe finds inspiration playing alongside his hockey role model, Marian Gaborik
Back when Marian Gaborik was regularly pouring in 40 goals a season as if he was tossing pennies into a fountain, a teenaged Adrian Kempe became a fan.
Kempe singled out Gaborik as his favorite player because of his afterburner skating ability that separated him from defenders. So it was with genuine amusement and self-deprecating humor that Gaborik broke into a grin Wednesday when told that he was Kempe’s hockey role model.
“That’s the first time I hear that story,” Gaborik said. “He’s got such a good talent. He looks good out there. He’s got great style. He reminds me a lot of [Hall of Fame forward Mike] Modano there — his [No.9] jersey flapping around. Hopefully we can keep it going.”
That story surely makes Gaborik feel older than his 35 years. But his coincidental grouping with Kempe, 21, along with Trevor Lewis, could give the Kings a unique third line because of their speed. Driving center ice has been Kempe’s trademark, and Gaborik also brings fresh legs after a seven-month hiatus to recover from a knee injury.
“He’s a really fast player and a good goal scorer,” Kempe said. “I think that would be good for me and I’ve just got to try to keep my speed in the middle and try to feed him pucks outside.”
Kings coach John Stevens indicated the line is only for the short term, but he likes the dynamic, especially with Lewis as a utility forward who can play with anyone. They produced a goal Tuesday against Detroit when Kempe grabbed Gaborik’s shot off the boards and converted into an open net. Stevens also likes the effect a veteran like Gaborik can have on Kempe.
“I think in Gabby’s case, he’s just a really good person,” Stevens said. “He interacts as well with the young guys as he does with the old guys, and I think his personality is very conducive to a guy like Adrian feeling comfortable there.”
Kempe’s output has mirrored the Kings’ good and bad streaks. He scored six goals in the first 10 games, then one goal in the ensuing 13 games before Tuesday. Kempe still feels good about his game, but he acknowledged the unbalanced ledger.
In the meantime, he appreciates his time with Gaborik. Kempe and his brother, Mario — a forward in the Arizona Coyotes’ system — didn’t always stay up late to watch NHL games in Sweden, but they both admired Gaborik.
“Both me and my brother looked up to him,” Kempe said. “It’s kind of exciting.”
When: Thursday, 4 p.m. PST.
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Update: Torrey Mitchell remained in Detroit to get his immigration paperwork completed and was expected to join the Kings on Thursday, a team official said. … The Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin was named third star of last week following his 20th career hat trick. He led the NHL with 18 goals through Tuesday and stands at 217 career power-play goals, tied with Jaromir Jagr for the most among active players.
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