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Kings combining size and skill to take West lead

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

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Kings combining size and skill to take West lead
Los Angeles has combined its size with its vast amount of skill to take a 2-0 series lead on the Phoenix Coyotes in the Western Conference Finals.


GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Kings captain Dustin Brown immediately thought of the 2007 Anaheim Ducks.

"They were gigantic," he said after L.A.'s 4-0 win Tuesday at Jobing.com Arena. "They were not only big, but they had the speed and the skill to go with it."

Kings forward Dustin Penner was among the giants on that Ducks team that won the Stanley Cup. He told NHL.com there is a comparison to be made between his old team and his new one, which now is two wins away from reaching the Stanley Cup Final heading into Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals on Thursday at Staples Center (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN).

Anze Kopitar
Anze Kopitar
Center - LAK
GOALS: 4 | ASST: 9 | PTS: 13
SOG: 37 | +/-: 10
No, the Kings don't have a Ryan Getzlaf, "but we have a [Anze] Kopitar," Penner said. "I think we play to that type of size. I think we have a lot of big guys, but also guys that play bigger than their size. They play hard and they never quit on pucks. That's the sign of a good team and a playoff team; there is that tenacity and that willingness to go into the hard areas and frustrate other teams."

It's working because the Coyotes definitely are frustrated after losing the first two games by a combined 8-2 and getting outshot 88-51.

"They're throwing a lot of pucks at the net, crashing the net," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "We're trying to do the same thing. We just haven't got as many pucks there."

They haven't because the Kings always seem to have the puck, which may seem a bit surprising when you consider that the Coyotes are not a small team by any means, with a roster that includes players like Martin Hanzal (6-foot-6, 236 pounds), Shane Doan (6-1, 223), Taylor Pyatt (6-4, 228) and Rostislav Klesla (6-3, 223), to name just a few.

However, through two games, the Coyotes have been made to look small against the sizable Kings, who are winning all the puck battles and generating goals with their size combined with their speed and skill.

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"It's only important if you use it properly," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said of size. "It's not useful if you don't use it to protect the puck, get opportunities. I think as a group we're trying to do that."

All you have to do is look at the Kings' goals to see how much size is a factor in this series.

Brown (6-foot, 204) used his size and speed down low to create a chance for Kopitar (6-3, 225) to score the first goal in Game 1. The best display of size came from Penner (6-4, 242) in the second period of Game 2, when he used his huge frame to get around Keith Yandle, shield Doan from the puck, and post-up Derek Morris before setting up Jeff Carter (6-4, 199) for the first of his three goals in Game 2.

Carter beat Antoine Vermette to the puck for that shot. He also got in front of the net on his two five-on-three goals that completed his hat trick.

Dwight King (6-3, 234) created space for himself in front of Phoenix goalie Mike Smith to get a deflection goal in the first period of Game 2.

"There is something about size -- if you have the skill to go with it, it can be really hard to defend," Brown said.

Even if the shift doesn't produce a goal, L.A.'s big forwards such as Kopitar, Brown, Penner, Carter, King, Jordan Nolan (6-3, 227), and Jarret Stoll (6-1, 213) are using their large frames to hold onto pucks and grind down the Coyotes. It's even harder on Phoenix when burly defensemen such as Willie Mitchell (6-3, 208), Matt Greene (6-3, 232), Rob Scuderi (6-1, 219), Drew Doughty (6-foot, 212) and Alec Martinez (6-1, 206) get involved.

"It helps every time when you have some big frames," Kopitar said. "Protecting the puck, it's not as easy to get it off of you."

It was darn near impossible to strip it away from the '07 Ducks. The '12 Kings aren't making it any easier.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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