Kings’ Anze Kopitar already has surpassed his scoring total from last year
In the quiet visitors locker room of United Center, Anze Kopitar remembered the deafening past with a raised eyebrow.
Was it three years ago that the Kings and Chicago Blackhawks staged one of the most incredible playoff series in the modern era with the 2014 Western Conference finals?
“It’s been a while now,” Kopitar said.
The Kings have since won one playoff game, and the Blackhawks have been eliminated in the first round the past two seasons. But one aspect is the same: Kopitar is at the peak of his game with linemates that fit like puzzle pieces.
Dustin Brown and Alex Iafallo flank Kopitar, and the trio will follow up one of its best games with a road finale Sunday against the Blackhawks.
Kopitar surpassed his season total from last season with his 13th goal Friday. He’s refreshed and healthy but also benefited from his wingers, with Brown as the muscle and Iafallo the active stick. Drew Doughty broke it down in his unique way.
“Iafallo doesn’t get enough credit for what he does on that line,” Doughty said. “He’s 100% got maybe the best stick I’ve ever seen in my entire life on the forecheck in the neutral zone. His stick on puck is unbelievable.
“So he creates those turnovers for those guys, and obviously Brownie likes forechecking, too, and I think Kopi kind of missed that in the past. He didn’t have two guys that are really good on the forecheck to get him the puck.”
Kopitar said that aggressive attack, however achieved, has helped him to take advantage in the zone.
“Them getting in there frees me up a little bit for maybe a half-second more, once we’re in there,” Kopitar said.
Of course, Kopitar is one of the league’s best forecheckers, and his numbers have returned. He’s on pace for his best season statistically since 2013-14, coincidentally the Kings’ last Stanley Cup championship that included a Game 7 win at United Center in the conference finals.
Time has passed “but we always come here and it’s always intense,” Kopitar said. “The building obviously is very loud and we’ve got to make sure that we’re ready right from the get-go because we all know they can score goals if you let them play their game.”
Torrey Mitchell went through a rigorous skate with a handful of his new teammates. It ended a prolonged wait to obtain a work visa in which Mitchell was literally stuck in Detroit.
“Well, I couldn’t do anything because I was literally on call to go to immigration as soon as we got the email saying ‘You’re processed,’ ” Mitchell said. “Like, I literally couldn’t even drive 20 minutes to the mall because I had to be ready to leave the hotel right away. So I did room service like 10 times.”
When: 4 p.m. PST Sunday.
On the air: TV: FS West; Radio: 790.
Update: Chicago, without injured Corey Crawford, could start former Kings goalie prospect Jean-Francois Berube. Alex DeBrincat is the talk of the NHL with 11 goals and 19 assists as a 5-foot-7, 165-pound rookie. Kings defenseman Kurtis MacDermid played with DeBrincat with the Eric Otters of the Ontario Hockey League. “Even though he was small, he was playing like he was a 6-foot-3 guy out there,” MacDermid said. “That’s what I loved about him. He wasn’t scared of anyone or anything out there.”
Follow Curtis Zupke on Twitter @curtiszupke
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