Jeff Carter’s leadership role didn’t happen overnight

Los Angeles Kings' Jeff Carter, center, skates during warm ups before a game against the San Jose Sharks on Dec. 22.

Los Angeles Kings’ Jeff Carter, center, skates during warm ups before a game against the San Jose Sharks on Dec. 22.

(Jae C. Hong / AP)

The topic of evolving leadership started with Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi following the Kings’ 5-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday and continued with center Jeff Carter on Wednesday after practice.

Lombardi likes that topic, and has consistently lauded Carter’s increasing leadership role. But Lombardi went a step further with his praise this time, saying the growth has been “tenfold.”

Forward Tyler Toffoli passed the injured Carter as the team’s leading scorer, hitting the 29-point mark Tuesday with a goal against the Oilers. Carter, with 11 goals and 28 points, has been out of the lineup since suffering an upper-body injury Saturday at Arizona.

A small group of Kings players practiced at the Leduc Recreation Center, including Carter, who said of his condition: “It’s kind of status quo. So we’ll see how it goes.”


Carter had more to say about the Kings’ recent effort — “Two great games by the guys” — and his own expanded role in the dressing room, which didn’t happen overnight.

“My 11th year in the league, right? You get the opportunity to play with a lot of good veteran guys over the years,” said Carter, who turns 31 on Friday. “Us losing a lot of vocal leaders in the room, it’s an opportunity to step up and take a bigger role in it.

“I enjoy it. I’m not the most vocal guy. But it’s something that’s been coming more and more. It’s been a lot of fun.… There’s a lot of other guys in the room that have really stepped up too.”

Lombardi agreed, mentioning center Anze Kopitar and defenseman Drew Doughty. Through their two runs to the Stanley Cup and the Western Conference final in 2013, the Kings had the luxury of relying upon several strong personalities and leaders: Justin Williams, Jarret Stoll, Mike Richards and Matt Greene. All except Greene, who is out long term after shoulder surgery, are no longer with the organization.

“There was always going to be a handoff where the top guys were going to learn from them,” Lombardi said. “We’re starting to see an evolution in Kopitar now, becoming a Justin Williams.” “And Doughty … [taking] a piece of Stoll. There’s a piece of those guys still in there.”

He tried to explain that the Kings are largely the same group but different. Until now, they didn’t have to push players into unfamiliar roles.

“A lot of the same players but different roles on your chemistry,” Lombardi said. “It’s a metaphysical side; there’s that feeling you get. You know when you are around teams, there’s an evolution that takes place.

“It was going to have to happen. Your best players have to be your best leaders. The other thing is, you forget it takes time.”

King’s return

Left wing Dwight King’s first game of the season — after missing 35 because of surgery to his foot — couldn’t have gone much better.

King scored and added an assist in Tuesday’s victory and there was a visible chemistry with linemates Dustin Brown and Trevor Lewis.

Brown and Lewis each had three points.

The next test was to see how King felt Wednesday. He is coming back from the first major injury of his hockey-playing life.

“I’ve been preparing myself, the skating leading up to the game was probably even tougher than the game itself,” King said. “My body feels good today.

“I was a little more tired at the end of the game. I was worried about feeling fresh, feeling up to par. … It worked out pitch perfect that everybody got on the board.”

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Update: Calgary had its franchise-record 11-game home-winning streak halted Tuesday by the Ducks, 1-0. The Ducks managed to shut down the dynamic Johnny Gaudreau, who scored five goals in two games last week. Gaudreau had four shots on goals against the Ducks.

Twitter: @reallisa