|What should Kings fans expect out of Anze Kopitar this season? Flanked by 30 goal scorers on both wings, a point per game is not out of the question.
The LAKings.com Mailbag returns with the fourth installment of the 2009-10 season answering questions on topics ranging from how will Ryan Smyth affect the Kings power play, to who Alexander Frolov will play with this season to where do fans go to interact with other Kings fans. Those answers and more in this week's LAKings.com Mailbag...and check back in two weeks for the next Mailbag.
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The Kings seem to struggle on power plays often, they keep passing the puck around and eventually lose it, missing out on great opportunities. The Kings seem to rarely shoot at the net and look for rebounds, will this change this year, possibly with Ryan Smith around the net?
Hovik P., Los Angeles, CA
Thanks for the note Hovik. Interesting enough, the Kings power play was actually quite potent in 2008-09, finishing tied for 13th in the NHL with a success rate of 19.2 percent (69-for-360). Of the 12 teams that finished ahead of them a year ago, only Buffalo and Minnesota did not make the playoffs. The team was led by Alexander Frolov with 12 power-play goals, Jarret Stoll with 10 and Michal Handzus, Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown, all with seven goals. Of those five players, only Handzus and Brown were real front-of-the-net presences. The addition of Smyth will allow Brown to move out in the slot a little more and should allow him to put more shots on net. Smyth, meanwhile, parks himself in front of the net, screening the goaltender on shots from the point and knocking in rebounds. Smyth has excelled on the power play in his career, scoring 130 of his 310 career goals with the man advantage.
In addition, the Kings will have a full season of a healthy Justin Williams, which translated to 20 power-play goals the last two seasons he was healthy in 2005-06 and 2006-07. Williams, Kopitar, Brown, Frolov, Stoll and Purcell should make up the core group of forwards on the power-play unit and should provide enough offense to perhaps even improve on the Kings No. 13 ranking.
The biggest question on the Kings power play will be who fills in for Kyle Quincey, who became a force on the power play with his booming shot from the point, leading the Kings with 27 power-play points (2-25=27). Should Stoll return to health, he can certainly help out in the back end, as will the continued development of Drew Doughty. The biggest room for growth, however, would be a full season with Jack Johnson and seeing what a healthy Johnson could do on the power play. Between Doughty, Johnson, Stoll and Peter Harrold, the team should have enough on the back end.
Kings fans saw a glimpse of the crownshirts potential on the power play at the Kings preseason game on Tuesday night vs. Phoenix at STAPLES Center, where Johnson blasted a laser from the point past a screened netminder for a shortlived Kings 1-0 lead. Where was Smyth you ask? Parked right in front of the Coyotes net. The Kings later added a power play goal for a 3-2 lead on a one-timer by Purcell off assists from Williams and Johnson.
Anze Kopitar has been receiving a lot of praise ever since he came into the NHL. But, last year his goals were lower than expected. Do you think Kopitar will have a breakthrough year, truly becoming a household name in the NHL?
Adam G., Los Angeles, CA
Adam, there is no doubt that Anze Kopitar is a talent. Breaking into the NHL in 2006-07, Kopitar became the first Kings rookie since Luc Robitaille (84 points, 1986-87) to reach 60 points in his inaugural campaign, scoring 20-41=61 in 72 games. He followed that up with his first 30-goal campaign, tallying 32-45=77 in 82 games. Rather than continue his upward trajectory, however, the points and goals tailed off a bit last season as Kopitar scored 27-39=66 as the 22-year-old Slovenian center adjusted to the defensive system installed by new head coach Terry Murray. Though Kopitar's defensive game improved, his offensive game certainly suffered.
With an off-season spent on improving his conditioning, a full year under his belt in Murray's system and now being flanked on the Kings No. 1 line by proven 30-goal scorers on both wings, Kopitar could be in store for a very big year in 2009-10...recording a point per game is certainly not out of the question.
How can I network with other kings fans in my area?
Thomas C., San Diego, CA
The Kings social networks offer fans many ways to connect with each other - and not just in Los Angeles. Through the Kings Twitter (lakings.com/twitter) you can hear about Tweet ups in your area with other Kings fans to watch games or just hang out. On Facebook (lakings.com/facebook) and MySpace (lakings.com/myspace), you can connect with fans to chat about the team and find out all the best places to go in your area to meet other Kings fans and to watch games. There are fans from not just Los Angeles but all over the United States, North America and the rest of the world on those three sites alone.
The Kingdom, LAKings.com's official message boards, is another great place to network with Kings fans from all over. Log on and introduce yourself today.
In this upcoming season, who do you think will be Alexander Frolov's line mates?
Alex P., Los Angeles, CA
Alex, thanks for the note. From the start of training camp, Alexander Frolov has been doing all of his workouts with Michal Handzus and Wayne Simmonds as the trio attempt to duplicate the chemistry that saw the line play as one of the Kings best a year ago. Frolov's presence on the Kings shutdown line provides an offensive punch that could create balance for the Kings three lines they roll out. In addition, his puck possession game and work around the boards is perfectly suited to play on the line, as keeping the puck away from the opposition's best line is just as important as defending them when they have the puck. The trio skated together in Phoenix as the Kings kick off their preseason at Jobing.com Arena. Simmonds scored two goals and Handzus picked up a helper in the Kings 4-2 loss.
Let's say the season starts with the roster we have now.... what do you see as the line combos and defense pairings?
Matt M., Los Angeles, CA
Thanks Matt, here is what the top three lines are shaping up as, barring injuries or ineffectiveness this preseason:
Smyth - Kopitar - Williams
Purcell - Stoll - Brown
Frolov - Handzus - Simmonds
The defensive pairings are looking like this:
Drew Doughty - Sean O'Donnell
Jack Johnson - Rob Scuderi
Davis Drewiske- Matt Greene
The fourth line is the biggest question mark. There are some jobs the could be up for grabs here but it will some combination of Brad Richardson/Oscar Moller/Trevor Lewis/Peter Harrold, Raitis Ivanans/Kevin Westgarth, Marc-Andre Cliche, Rich Clune and John Zeiler in there somewhere.
The coaching staff loves the flexibility of Harrold, playing responsible as a fourth-line center man, a seventh d-guy in the event of injury and maybe even some PP-time on defense, so he is a lock. Ivanans is the incumbent enforcer, but with the team's toughness at times coming into question a year ago, don't rule out the possibility of both Westgarth and Ivanans on this roster and Clune could certainly help in that area as well. We'll see...
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