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Kings Can Play with San Jose

by Andrew Howard / Los Angeles Kings
Ryan Clowe's game winner in the shootout game the Sharks a 2-1 win. The Kings have secured three out of four points vs. San Jose, after getting just four out of 12 a year ago.
Meaningful assessments of a team's performance cannot be accurately made after the first month of the season.

Yet it is hard to look at the start the Los Angeles Kings have gotten off to and not see that significant improvement has been made. (What a difference a year makes).

Last season, the Kings finished with a record of 34-37-11, good enough for 14th in the Western Conference.

This season, the Kings sit in first atop the Pacific Division standings ahead of the San Jose Sharks with an 8-4-2 record and 18 points (standings).

Forward Justin Williams, who has missed the past four games with an undisclosed lower-body injury and missed tonight's game (a 2-1 SO loss to Vancouver), feels that the early success the Kings have had is due to a high-level of confidence the team has.

"It's still early," Williams said. "I don't know, maybe just another year of experience and having everybody believe that we're one of the best teams in the league. I think that goes a long way to finishing games off and playing against the best teams."

Second-year coach Terry Murray believes that a good start to the season is not only beneficial for the players, but the fans as well.

"You get some momentum behind you and you get through some games that maybe you don't play so well and you find a way to pull it out," Murray said. "And then other games you can go and play against teams that you're expected and supposed to beat and then you do and then you grow from all of that."

One source of confidence the Kings can point to is how they have fared against the San Jose Sharks in the two games the teams have played in the first month of the season. With Wednesday night's loss in the shootout, the Kings have gained three of a possible four points against last season's President's Cup winners. Last season, the Kings were 1-3-2, collecting just four points out of a possible 12, against the Sharks.

Following Wednesday's game, center Anze Kopitar spoke with LA Kings Insider Rich Hammond about what he believed the Kings have shown in their two games against the Sharks.

"We had enough chances, so we can say at the end of the day that we did play an equal game against them," Kopitar told Hammond. "We can compare ourselves to them."

Yet Murray did not believe the Kings should focus on trying to measure up against their opponents.

"I don't use it as a measuring stick," Murray told Hammond. "I don't use any particular game as a measuring stick. We know this is the best team in the league. They showed that last year. They've got an incredible amount of talent. They can dominate with that line. That (Joe) Thornton line dominates any line, any game that they want to go out and do it. But I don't use any one of these games and try to see how far weve come or where we are. I don't believe in that."

Measuring stick games aside, at the end of the day there is no question the Kings have gotten off to an impressive start.

Yet the question remains, as it always does: will early success translate into a successful season?

"Were at a huge stepping stone this year to get ourselves to the elite level that the San Joses are in," Williams said. "I think we're getting that confidence that we belong up there and that's big. Going on the road in San Jose, it's not an easy place to play and we played well. The game could have gone obviously either way in the skills competition there at the end. I think it goes a long ways just seeing where we're at and just our overall confidence."

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