Let’s play trivia with Kings defenseman Drew Doughty.
The question for the Kings’ Norris Trophy contender: How many players remain on the active playing roster from the New Jersey Devils team that pushed the Kings to six games in the 2012 Stanley Cup Final?
Doughty immediately named three — Travis Zajac, Adam Henrique and Andy Greene. The fourth is Stephen Gionta — but the relevant point is the same. Unlike the Kings, who have been a model of stability since winning their first of two Stanley Cup championships in a three-year span, the Devils, who played the Kings on Saturday night at Staples Center, have undergone massive changes.
Gone are Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise, their most dynamic scorers, as well as future Hall of Fame goaltender Martin Brodeur and coach Peter DeBoer, who this year has helped resurrect a flagging San Jose Sharks program.
The Devils have a new coach in John Hynes and a new general manager in Ray Shero. Following a promising start to the season, injuries to their two most important players, goaltender Cory Schneider and former Kings forward Michael Cammalleri, have dropped the Devils out of playoff contention.
The Kings, meanwhile, still have Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Doughty and Jonathan Quick as their pillars, plus captain Dustin Brown in a leadership role and six other members of the 2012 supporting cast in the organization, including recent returnee Rob Scuderi.
Stability matters in a team game, according to Doughty, who said: “It means a lot, especially when you win together because it creates a bond and when you have those bonds as a player, you never want a guy to leave and you never want them to be traded.”
Among the key departures from the Kings, defenseman Slava Voynov and forward Justin Williams arguably would be the two former teammates who could most help the Kings this time around. Even without them, the squad that won it all in 2012 and 2014 remains a relevant challenger in 2016 as well.
That’s no small feat in an era of parity, when salary-cap challenges mean that hanging onto all the core pieces is not always an easy thing to do.
“When you’re able to keep as much of that group together, the aura through the room is bigger — and when new guys come in, they feel like they’re involved right away because we bring them into our family right away,” Doughty said. “The longer you play together, the more chemistry you have, on and off the ice, and we have that. We have great chemistry in here.”
Doughty has been playing alongside Scuderi and even though they played together in Scuderi’s first turn with the Kings, they are learning to feed off each other again.
“I played with him a long time, but things change,” Doughty said. “He’s been in different systems and our system’s changed, so there’s a lot of things to get used to. It’s not a major change, but it’s definitely a little more aggressive, but he’ll be fine. He’ll get used to it real quick.”
Even with the system tweaks Doughty mentioned, the Kings mostly adhere to a tight, defensive style of play that requires them all to be on the same page. When it’s working — as it was in the first two periods of a 4-3 overtime win over the Washington Capitals this past Wednesday — they can dominate games, even against quality opponents. When they stray from it, or if the bottom end of the lineup gets overmatched, then the game can become more of a challenge.
But seeing the Devils always brings back memories of their championship breakthrough.
“Looking back, four years ago, it goes by quick,” Carter said. “They’ve got a lot of new players but their system and their philosophy, nothing has really changed.
“They play the same way. Last time we were in there, it was a 1-0 hockey game. That’s the New Jersey Devils for you.”
Follow Lisa Dillman on Twitter: @reallisa