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by Staff Writer / Los Angeles Kings
While most of the Kings were spending the day at the team hotel last night, defenseman Jack Johnson was excited to have a home-cooked meal for dinner as the Kings prepare to face the Red Wings on Friday at 4:30 p.m. | AP Preview

Johnson, one of Los Angeles' top young defensemen, grew up in Michigan, and still lives in the area during the off-season. His family still lives in Ann Arbor, the home of Johnson's college team, the University of Michigan.

"It's fun. I got to go home last night in Ann Arbor, hang out with family and have a home-cooked meal. Just hang out for a bit, it was fun, it's nice, no matter what, this is home."

Johnson spent two seasons with the Wolverines, amassing 71 points in 74 games under legendary coach Red Berenson. Before enrolling at Michigan, Johnson developed his hockey skills at the U.S. National Development Program, also located in Ann Arbor.

The 22-year-old said that skating at Joe Louis Arena brings back memories of "everything from being a little kid playing minor hockey in the state of Michigan, to college hockey at the University of Michigan." But his favorite memory was sharing the ice with some of the former Red Wings.

"Oh boy, I'd say when I was a little kid I got to go out sometimes and skate with guys like Sergei Fedorov and Steve Yzerman and everything … that's something I still think of whenever I go out there."

Johnson is more than familiar with skating on the Joe Louis Arena ice; the University of Michigan plays a select number of games in the NHL rink every season, and it is the home for the Central Collegiate Hockey Association's playoff semi-final and final games.

"I'm comfortable playing here, but it seems like the team we're playing against gets better every time. But, it's just fun for me to come back here and I just feel like this is home."

Johnson said that he expects 20 or so people to be in the stands cheering him on against the Red Wings tonight. He said that he misses his friends and family, but he's got no complaints about living in Los Angeles.

"Friends and family. I think I got an upgrade on the weather, and everything else, but it's really just friends and family and home. But other than that I can't complain, I got a lot of friends out there, and it's nice living out there."

Johnson isn't the only player with home ties in the state of Michigan. Defenseman Matt Greene was born in Grand Ledge, Mich., which is just west of the state's capital, Lansing. Greene said it's always fun to come back and play in Detroit.

"It's a good time. You got a chance to play against a good team and play in front of some of your family and some of your friends, and it's always nice coming home."

The 25-year-old defenseman confessed that he was a fan of tonight's enemy growing up in the state of Michigan.

"Of course, I think everybody from Michigan is a Red Wings fan. You grow up watching them, through the bad years in the ‘80s, then the early ‘90s, and you see them become a dynasty, it's pretty cool."

However, Kings fans shouldn't worry; Greene said that the fan in him was pushed away the moment he became a professional.

"I think you cut ties as soon as you're drafted, you stop being a fan, so no real mixed emotions, just another game."

Greene said he tries to make use of the time he has in Detroit, but he realizes he is here to play hockey.

"You get to see some of your buddies that you grew up with, some people from your past, it's always a good time to catch up with friends that you don't get time to do during the year. It's good, but again too, it's cut short, you're here for business, not for pleasure."

According to Greene, his fan support in the stands isn't just driven by the fact that the hometown kid is skating close to Grand Ledge.

Today's not bad, probably 20 or 25 [people]. Usually it's a lot worse. I don't know, there's not a lot going on in Grand Ledge, so people usually make the trip down, so today's not that bad."

The Kings' top draft pick last summer, Drew Doughty, held a few memories from his time in Detroit last spring. Doughty, along with a few other top North American prospects, were invited to Detroit during the Stanley Cup Final.

"It was pretty cool, I got to obviously meet all the guys and come into the room after the game with the press and stuff and it was just awesome to meet the Red Wings and the Penguins. We also had a luncheon dinner with Gordie Howe and the guys that played back then, so it was pretty cool to meet them too.

"It was obviously a great time and a great experience for me."

Doughty said that the experience helped him prepare to handle the media, as he got lessons from players like Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby.

"We saw all the media and stuff like that, and met some of the more high-profile players. It was awesome."

Goaltender Jonathan Quick will be between the pipes when the puck drops against the Red Wings tonight. Quick holds a 13-8-1 record this season, with a .912 SV%.

Quick's first start of the season came in Detroit as well, on Dec. 20. The Kings dropped a 6-4 thriller with Quick between the pipes making 30 saves on 35 shots, but he said the experience helped and he feels more comfortable this time around.

"I'd definitely say so. I've gotten 20 or so games in the league since then, so I obviously feel a lot more comfortable. I know the team a bit more, and you know the game plan a little bit better and you know the routine. So this is also the second time I've played them since then, so you know their team a little bit more, and you know what to look for a little bit."

Quick said making his first start against the defending Stanley Cup champions was more exciting then anything else.

"I wouldn't say nerve-wracking. You're excited to play and it was a big game, I would say it was exciting but not really nerve-wracking."

The 23-year-old goaltender said he's not intimidated by the Red Wings' impressive power play, which currently sits at the top of the NHL rankings.

"We just got to stick to our system, get in lanes, block shots, and pressure them when we have to pressure them. You can only do what you can do."


Players from 25 National Hockey League teams are showing their support for the international humanitarian organization Right To Play by making personal donations based on minutes played in one of their team's games this weekend. Anze Kopitar will be donating money for every minute he plays tonight to the Right to Play organization in the name of his father and former coach in Slovenia Matjaz Kopitar.

Right To Play is an international humanitarian organization that uses sport and play programs to improve health, develop life skills and foster peace for children and communities in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the world. Working in both the humanitarian and development context, Right To Play trains local community leaders as Coaches to deliver our programs in 23 countries affected by war, poverty and disease across Africa, Asia, the Middle East and South America. Right To Play is supported by an international team of top athletes from more than 40 countries. As role models, these athletes inspire children, raise awareness and promote opportunities for funding for Right To Play projects.

Judging from the morning skate, tonight's scratches will be forwards John Zeiler and Brad Richardson. Defenseman Tom Preissing is on injured reserve but traveling with the team. After being called up to fill in for captain Dustin Brown, Teddy Purcell will remain in the lineup.


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