|Top three picks Bobby Ryan, Sidney Crosby and Jack Johnson pose at the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. |
Two teenage friends from a Minnesota prep school have come a long way.
Kings defenseman Jack Johnson and Pittsburgh forward Sidney Crosby will face each other tonight at Staples Center, the latest chapter in the story of their close friendship, which started when they were prep-school classmates at the famed Shattuck-St. Mary’s in 2002.
Crosby was selected No. 1 overall by Pittsburgh in 2005, and Johnson was selected two spots later by Carolina, which later traded him to the Kings.
Crosby jumped straight to the NHL, while Johnson spent two seasons at the University of Michigan before he turned pro. Since then, Crosby is 2-0 against his friend, but Johnson said there hasn’t been any trash-talking between the two friends this week.
"No," Johnson said with a grin. "Just, 'Hi, how you doing?’ Just catching up, really. We’re both pretty busy, and very rarely do we each not have a game. I got to talk to him a little bit after the Ducks game (on Tuesday), but that’s about it."
Johnson stands a strong chance of making the U.S. Olympic team, in which case he will be facing Crosby on an international level in February. Playing on opposite coasts can make maintaining friendship difficult, but Johnson said he communicates with Crosby during the season.
"Yeah, we talk like normal friends, really," Johnson said. "Nothing special. He’s a normal kid and we’ve known each other for a long time. Just normal catch-up, really. A lot of times it’s not even about hockey. Just life, what’s going on in the world. When we talk we usually try to get away from hockey."
FRO TO GO
Alexander Frolov participated in Thursday’s morning skate and, as expected, will skate tonight alongside center Michal Handzus and winger Wayne Simmonds, a reunion of the line that started the season together.
The first line of Ryan Smyth, Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams remains intact. Jarret Stoll will center Scott Parse and Dustin Brown while Brad Richardson will center Raitis Ivanans and Teddy Purcell, with Peter Harrold as a healthy scratch.
Randy Jones, claimed off waivers last week, continues to practice, but no timetable has been set for getting him into a game, Kings coach Terry Murray said.
THE LITTLE THINGS
Williams, who recently missed five games with a lower-body injury, has 10 points in 10 games this season, but has received less attention than high-scoring teammates Kopitar (24 points in 15 games) and Smyth (19 points in 15 games).
Still, Murray didn’t hesitate to put Williams back on the top line when he returned, and had high praise when asked what Williams brought to the top line.
"Puck possession," Murray said. "He brings a nice skill level with holding onto the puck, making plays, seeing the ice, scanning the ice, finding people in open situations so that the offensive-zone play can continue. That, to me, is where you can sometimes look at the statistics too much and say, 'He hasn't scored in a few games.' But how is the offensive-zone time? What kind of puck possession? What kind of plays are being made? Are the opportunities being generated by one player in particular?
"That's what I feel I do over the course of the season. I don't have a knee-jerk reaction with a player on a line and say, 'I've got to make a change here because I haven't seen any statistics, on paper, over the last four or five games."'