With the Canadiens hosting another afternoon game, as is their practice during Super Bowl Weekend, the Kings bussed to the Canadiens recently opened practice facility in Brossard, a 20-minute drive away, for an energetic but low-impact hour-long practice.
Assistant coach Mark Hardy, who hit the Big 5-0 today, had the ice to himself for a few minutes, skating laps and picking up pucks here and there. Once the rest of the team joined him on the ice, drills began with both offensive and defensive skills being worked on.
A crowd of local residents ringed the plate glass windows surrounding the rink, fans of all ages enjoying the unexpected treat of getting to watch an NHL team at work. Every five minutes or so things were changed up and coach, Terry Murray, explained the next drill.
The forward lines from yesterday’s game were left intact with Kyle Calder, Dustin Brown and Jarret Stoll wearing green jerseys and Anze Kopitar, Alexander Frolov and Patrick O’Sullivan skating in red.
Brad Richardson, Michal Handzus and Wayne Simmonds wore purple while Raitis Ivanans, Derek Armstrong and Peter Harrold, still playing up front, formed the maroon trio.
Oscar Moller once again donned the yellow, non-contact sweater but participated fully in the afternoon’s activities, all centered on brains rather than brawn.
A fast, shower, a quick slice or three of pizza and it was back on the bus, with most of the players planning on tuning in to the Super Bowl, even though they won’t be able to enjoy the same commercials that American viewers do, Canadian regulations allowing broadcasters north of the border to sell the commercial time themselves and play them instead of the US ads.
A couple American Kings ventured a guess at the outcome. Ithica, NY native, Dustin Brown went one way, while Grand Ledge, Michigan’s Matt Green went the other.
“I’m going with the Steelers,” said Brown. “ I think they’re the better team and I think they’ll win by ten.”
“I’m going with the Cardinals. I’m picking them by them three, a field goal,” said Green. “Because they haven’t won in a long time and they’re due. Maybe in a few years we can get the Lions back on top.”
Anze Kopitar admitted he was more of a World Cup kind of guy but agreed to prognosticate when pressed on the matter.
“I don’t know, let’s say I’ll pick the Cardinals, by seven points.”
With a father who played professionally and having spent his childhood in rinks, Kopitar agreed that his upbringing was not that different from many Canadian kids who took up the game.
“I guess we're a hockey family. My dad used to play left wing and he still loves the game. My little brother plays, “ he said. “Maybe we are kind of like a Canadian family but I really love my country and I’m proud to be from Slovenia.”
Asked if hockey has gained in popularity in his native country as a result of his success, Kopitar said that he hoped that it had.
“I know hockey’s a good sport and if a young kid chooses to play hockey because I’m involved in the game, well I think that’s quite an honor.”
Birthday boy, Mark Hardy, also the son of a former pro puckster, grew up in the Montreal area and had plans for the evening.
“I’m going over to my mom’s house for the Super Bowl. Two points would have been nice last night but this is a nice consolation. I can’t remember the last time I was here on my birthday.