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Morning Skate: Kopitar Heating Up

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
Kopitar is coming off a big game at Detroit.

TORONTO - Back in the first two months of the season, Anze Kopitar was accumulating points so quickly that it was difficult to keep track of them.

Kopitar had five three-point games among his first 15 games this season, but then things started going downhill. Shortly after a one-goal, two-assist effort against Phoenix on Nov. 5, Kopitar went through a 13-game stretch without a goal.

Is the "old" Kopitar starting to make a comeback?

Kopitar had one goal and two assists Saturday against Detroit, for his first three-point game since Nov. 5, and coach Terry Murray called it Kopitar’s best game of the season, high praise considering that Kopitar once led the league in scoring this season.

But for Murray, it’s not all about the points. It’s about the work, and it seems as though Kopitar has been helped by the addition of wingers Brad Richardson and Wayne Simmonds on the first line, as energy players who can get the puck to Kopitar.

"That's hard to measure," Murray said. "I know it's a hard-working line, with Richardson and Simmonds. Kopitar, to me, in the last couple games, he's had a tremendous attitude as far as trying to get something done every time the puck is on his stick. He attacks, he's aggressive with it, he's holding it in difficult situations and he probably went to the net, in the Detroit game in particular, as well as he has all year long.

"When you rely on a player of that caliber to be a scorer, those are the areas that you have to get to. You've got to pay a price. It's hard, it's dirty, it's nasty in there sometimes, and he was doing everything he possibly could to help us get back into the game."

LINEUP CHANGE
Raitis Ivanans will return to the Kings’ lineup on the fourth line, in place of winger Teddy Purcell. Ivanans will play with center Oscar Moller and right wing Brandon Segal.

THEY LIKE HIM, THEY REALLY LIKE HI
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During each of his three days in Toronto, Drew Doughty faced a series of questions from the local media, not a surprise given his hometown and where he will be next month.

Doughty grew up in London, Ontario, two hours outside of Toronto, and next month Doughty will be the youngest player on the Canadian Olympic hockey team.

That is, to put it mildly, a huge story in Toronto, and the local media is breathless in its attempts to get some perspective on Murray and have him compare Doughty to some of the great defensemen in NHL history.

Murray, for his part, has not shied away from saying that Doughty has the potential to be one of the best.

"Doughty has all the tools to be one of the great ones, not only with his skill but with his mental approach to the game," Murray said. "He's got an innate sense to do things at critical times in the game. That's what the special ones are able to do.

"It's something that he has shown here, in a short period of time, and he's going to continue to improve in that area."

Starting Feb. 16, Doughty will represent Canada in the Olympics. Expectations, as always, are high in Canada, even more so this time because the Games are in Vancouver, but Doughty said he hasn’t yet been looking that far ahead.

"I kind of don’t think about it [the Olympics] too much," Doughty said. "Right now I’m just focusing on the Kings, and we’re in a big battle for playoff spots right now. That’s my main focus, but the Olympics is always definitely in the back of my mind, and I can’t wait to get it going."

IN NEED OF POWER

The Kings have won four of their last five games, even as the power play continues to struggle. The Kings are a combined 0-for-27 on the power play in their last six games, but Murray said he’s seeing the potential for a breakout.

"We're not going to change a lot there," Murray said. "We really feel that in the last few games -- several games, actually -- we've had some real good offensive-zone time. It's a matter of a break that's needed right now, where we're going to get the puck in. Look back at the game where the puck goes in off Moller's glove and it's disallowed. That would have been maybe a little crack in the door and we could have fed off that energy.

"But overall, the offensive zone has been good, the puck movement has been good. I think a couple of areas are to get back to shooting the puck more and get in the goaltender's face a little bit more, on a consistent basis. We're there, but just a little off."
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