Dwight King bounces back with Kings after an unproductive season

Dwight King didn't need to go through the exercise of exit meetings with the Kings staff in June to know what needed to happen next for his fledgling career.

It was, of course, totally up to him.

The left wing processed what went right and what went wrong in the lockout-shortened 48-game season. Unfortunately, there was much more of the latter than the former. But just as vital was taking another step back and thinking about the 2011-12 season, his breakthrough campaign.

"Obviously, you go to the summer time and review what was effective for me before," King said. "It was being around the net and being hard on pucks. More or less, just focusing on that. And now being given the opportunity to play with some good players this year so far and trying to take advantage of it."

King was talking about the upgrade in his game on a Kings trip this month and the conversation started by the question he has been hearing since he looked sharp in training camp in September.

What has changed?

"Not much," King said.

That, in fact, has been an understatement. King had four goals and 10 points in 47 games last season. And heading into Saturday night's game against the Calgary Flames at Staples Center, he has seven goals and 11 points, both career highs, in 26 games.

"The big thing we talked about last summer was getting back, because he had a tough 48 games, the way he was in the playoffs where he was using his big body," said Coach Darryl Sutter, speaking of the Kings' run to the Stanley Cup in 2012.

"Everything he gets in terms of offense spins off that. If he's not getting shots, it's because he's not using his body. If he's not playing in the other team's zone, it's not protecting the puck. It's little things like that. If he sticks to those details, he's really effective."

Sutter, in his long coaching career, has watched players head the other way after season-ending meetings.

"Hey, give Kinger lots of credit for this, right?" he said. "I've been through enough of them that, in one [ear] and out the other. The door opens, the door closes.

"We showed him everything. How it all broke out. He was either going to be third, fourth line, depending upon how he played and what his production was because that's how it works. Or he could push from third [line] up.

"He knew he didn't have a very good season ... he trained hard and did a good job."

King, of late, has been on a line with Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, who returned to action in Vancouver on Monday. The bonus is that King was been productive and versatile, hugely important considering the Kings' recent injury woes.

"It doesn't matter where you put him," Sutter said. "He helps those guys. He doesn't get much attention but he helps. It doesn't matter if he is with Richie. It doesn't matter if he is with [Anze] Kopitar. It doesn't matter if he is with Jarret [Stoll].

"He can give you those five-on-five quality minutes. ... There's times when you want him to be a higher level. But there's never at a below-average level. There's not a drop in his game. There's a drop maybe in offense. But there's not a drop in the little parts of the game that don't get noticed enough."


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