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Call him Kopi-Star

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
It was a notable day for Anze Kopitar, who was selected to the NHL All-Star Game and picked up a set of new, but quite familiar, linemates in Kings practice on Tuesday.

Kopitar, who leads the Kings in scoring and is in the top 10 in the NHL in points and assists, has been selected as an All-Star for the second time and will be the Kings’ lone representative when the game is played on Jan. 30 at the RBC Center in Raleigh, N.C.

``It's definitely an honor, being selected to that group of players that is going to be there,’’ Kopitar said. You don't really have to explain it. You just have to look at the guys who are on the roster. It's a big honor for me, and I'm going to have some fun there.’’

The NHL, on Tuesday morning, released its list of the 24 forwards, 12 defensemen and six goalies who will participate in the All-Star Game. Players will be split between two teams based on the selections of one ``captain’’ per team.

The Kings announced that center Anze Kopitar was selected to the 2011 All-Star game today.
opitar was also an NHL All-Star during the 2007-08 season, his second NHL season.

``It goes quick,’’ Kopitar said of the All-Star weekend. ``This time around, I think I'm going to enjoy it a little more than I did the first time. Obviously I enjoyed it the first time too, but I really want to soak it in as much as I can, because you never know when it's going to happen again. You just want to make the most of it.’’

Kopitar’s enthusiasm was a bit muted Tuesday, because of the Kings’ recent struggles. Having lost six of their last seven games, the Kings turned to new lines, most notably the first-line reunion of Kopitar with wingers Ryan Smyth and Justin Williams.

That trio got off to a white-hot start last season but was unable to recapture the magic late, following mid-season injuries to Smyth, and then Williams.

Coach Terry Murray has used nine different first-line combinations at the starts of games this season, but had not turned back to the look of Kopitar with Smyth and Williams for any extended period of time at even strength, until now.

``We've got to get some wins on the board, and you're trying to find something that's going to be the catalyst to get it going right now,’’ Murray said. ``I'd like to think that that could be a good look. I'm hoping it is. We'll see, obviously, in a couple days, when we start playing again.

``There was nothing that I was upset about with Zeus on that (Smyth-Williams) line or with Kopi and Brownie. In fact, I like Kopi and Brownie [Dustin Brown]. They've had a great start to the season, a great month of December. They put up some good numbers, but again, it's to get a different look at some lines, and hopefully get some good energy coming as a result of it.’’

Dustin Brown, who had played a first-line role in all 42 games this season, and is tied for first on the team in goals (17) and third in points (34), now moves into a second-line role alongside veteran center Michal Handzus and rookie winger Kyle Clifford.

``I talked to (Brown) before the practice today,’’ Murray said. ``He understands what coaches do, with moving lines around and looking for different combinations that are going to be the spark to get something going. He agreed, he understood, when I spoke with him this morning. I spoke to Zeus about it before the practice. Everybody understands what is happening.’’

The third line, with Jarret Stoll centering Marco Sturm and Wayne Simmonds, will remain intact, and four players -- Alexei Ponikarovsky, Trevor Lewis, Kevin Westgarth and Brad Richardson -- are in the fourth-line mix.

Murray said Richardson, who had been a healthy scratch in the two previous games, will play when the Kings host St. Louis on Thursday night at STAPLES Center.

Kopitar wasn’t the only member of the Kings organization to be selected to an All-Star team Tuesday, as both goalie Martin Jones and defenseman Viatcheslav Voynov, members of the Manchester Monarchs, were picked for the AHL All-Star Game.

Jones and Voynov will represent the Eastern Conference in the game on Jan. 31 in Hershey, Penn. It will be Voynov’s second All-Star appearance and Jones’ first.

Voynov, 21, leads the Monarchs with 29 points, including eight goals and 21 assists. Jones, in his first professional season, has taken over as the Monarchs’ No. 1 goalie and is first in the AHL in goals-against average (1.75) and second in save percentage (.943). The Monarchs are in first place in the AHL’s Atlantic Division.

After the Kings’ 3-2 loss to Toronto on Monday night, two of the Kings’
designated leaders, captain Dustin Brown and assistant captain Matt Greene, spoke with some frustration about the team’s need for a better effort.

Today, Murray was asked about his leaders and their effectiveness during this slump.

``They're doing a good job,’’ Murray said. ``I like the group. Whenever we do meet, as a staff, there's lots of good communication. They're airing some things. I'm voicing some opinions. I'm not looking for any in-house secrets, or anything like that, that's going on in the locker room. It's always concerning the performance of the team on the ice. I think they're doing a good job of that.’’

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