Kings’ Anze Kopitar looking to shoot more, ask questions later

"When I'm out on the ice I'm not thinking, 'Shoot.' I'm making the play that I think is the best at that particular moment," says Anze Kopitar, shown in last season's Western Conference finals against the Chicago Blackhawks.
(Brian Cassella / Chicago Tribune)

Kings center Anze Kopitar made two solemn promises this past summer.

One was a traditional wedding vow, uttered when he was married to his longtime girlfriend, Ines. The other was a promise he made to the many hockey people who advised him to take advantage of his skills and shoot the puck more often, rather than always looking to pass first.

The wedding, in his native Slovenia, went off without a hitch. So far, Kopitar’s vow to shoot is a success, as well.


Kopitar, who endured an 0-for-16 goal-scoring slump at the end of last season and scored only three times in 18 playoff games, has scored goals in each of his last two preseason games. He finished off a give-and-go with left wing Dwight King on Tuesday to score the decisive goal in the Kings’ 2-1 exhibition victory over the Ducks at Staples Center, one of many fine sequences involving King, Kopitar and right wing Justin Williams.

Jonathan Quick played the whole game in net for the Kings, stopping 14 shots in the first period and 27 overall. Ducks goaltender Viktor Fasth stopped 31 shots in the headline writers’ dream matchup of Quick vs. Fasth.

Kopitar’s strong play was another encouraging sign for the Kings — and for Kopitar himself. He has been prone to scoring slumps but always managed to maintain his excellence defensively; the Kings will need him to be productive in addition to being diligent on defense.

“Two in a row,” he said of his scoring streak, smiling broadly. “Not bad. It’s a start.”

He was credited with four shots against the Ducks after taking a total of three shots in his previous two exhibition games. He fit well with King, who filled in admirably for Dustin Brown recovering from a hamstring pull, and with Williams. “I’m not going to force it, but, yeah, if the shot’s there I’ll try to think shot first and then try and set up,” Kopitar said.

Asked what he liked most about the game, Kings Coach Darryl Sutter immediately singled out Kopitar and King.


“It’s good to see Kopi on top of his game and good to see King on top of his game,” Sutter said.

Sutter was among those who urged Kopitar to shoot more often. Hockey Hall of Famer Luc Robitaille, the Kings’ president of business operations, also made that argument to Kopitar.

“Luc, you can never go wrong with that guy,” Kopitar said. “It’s nice when you can talk to people like that. They just tell you their perspective and again, when I’m out on the ice I’m not thinking, ‘Shoot.’ I’m making the play that I think is the best at that particular moment. If it’s a shot, it’s a shot.”

Kopitar has also had a load lifted off his mind — and off his knee. He’s no longer wearing the brace he adopted as a precaution last season after he suffered a knee injury in January playing in Sweden during the lockout. Kopitar said the knee was “good” last season but he did extra work this summer to be sure it would be even stronger. He said he hasn’t needed the psychological comfort of having the brace.

“I think it’s all in the head, anyways,” he said. “When I got used to the brace last year it wasn’t a problem. Yeah, you know it’s on there, but once you’re skating you’re not thinking about the brace. You’re just trying to skate as fast as you can and get the puck. But I started off again with no brace right from the first ice session I had this summer, and it felt good.”


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