|Ontario Reign alum Dwight King will make his debut tonight vs. Columbus. |
-- It’s only 43.2 miles -- essentially a straight shot across Interstate 10 -- but the distance between downtown L.A. and Ontario has been big for Dwight King
King started his pro career last season as a member of the ECHL’s Ontario Reign. After a moderate layover in New Hampshire, King is back in Southern California and will make his NHL debut tonight when the Kings host Columbus at STAPLES Center.
A fourth-round pick of the Kings in 2007, King’s prospects didn’t look great a year ago when, after an admittedly poor training camp, he was assigned to the ECHL.
While the ECHL can be a decent training ground for goalies and defensemen, it’s generally not where NHL-caliber forwards develop. King, though, played 20 games for the Reign before he was promoted to the AHL’s Manchester Monarchs last December and had a strong finish to the season, including some impressive play in the playoffs.
Through 16 games this season, King was second on the Monarchs in goals and points, and tonight he will get the chance to skate in an important role on the Kings’ third line, with veteran center Michal Handzus and right winger Wayne Simmonds.
What all started back in Ontario last year will come full circle in L.A. tonight.
``Last year was obviously my first year pro, and it took some adjusting,’’ King said after today’s morning skate. ``I didn't have the greatest camp, and I went down to Ontario, where Karl Taylor is the coach. He's a great coach and he just helped me along the way. When you're young, you're fragile, and he just gave me great advice.
``When I got my opportunity in Manchester, we had a good season, with a couple of the guys who are here now. It was a little bit of a confidence boost, and obviously going into the playoffs and doing well was great for me.''
The Kings called up Dwight King
on Tuesday, essentially to replace Scott Parse
, who will undergo hip surgery next week. King, at 6-foot-3 and 227 pounds, will be counted on for some physical play and solid defense on the Kings’ ``shutdown’’ line.
``We're going to meet with him and review everything that we're doing here,’’ coach Terry Murray said. ``We're not going to change what we know he can bring to the game. He's a big-bodied guy who is very responsible. He was playing in all situations down in Manchester. We want him to continue to hold the puck, make plays, get to the net.
``He's a real big-bodied guy, wide guy, who has shown us that in the last couple training camps. And his awareness away from the puck is good. So the role for that line would stay the same, as far as a checking line, and we expect him to be able to fit in. I think if there's any kind of indecision on his part, Handzus is so intelligent out there that he can certainly make an adjustment and read off him in those kind of looks.''LINEUP CHANGE
As expected, Brad Richardson
will replace Parse as the first-line left winger, alongside Anze Kopitar
and Dustin Brown
. The second and fourth lines remain intact.Jake Muzzin
is expected to be back in the lineup, replacing Peter Harrold on defense, and Jonathan Quick
will be in goal for the Kings.NEW-LOOK JACKETS
The Kings beat the Columbus Blue Jackets three times in four games last season, but while much of the Blue Jackets’ personnel is the same, the team has changed.
First-year coach Scott Arniel has put in a new, more aggressive system, and it seems to be paying off for the Blue Jackets. They’re off to a 9-6-0 start, including impressive victories over San Jose, Philadelphia, Montreal and St. Louis this season.
``They've got, it looks like, a more aggressive offensive mindset,’’ Murray said. ``They're coming with two on the forecheck in the neutral zone. They're pretty aggressive in the offensive zone, to recover pucks. Their D are very active. It's a team that is playing with renewed energy and a fresh look. They've had a couple of very big wins recently here, so we're going to have to bounce back from our game against San Jose and make sure that we're doing the right things on the checking part of the game. If we do that, we know that we can generate some good offensive opportunities.''