The Kings enter tonight’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins with confidence after beating the best team in the Eastern Conference with their, 3-2, spectacular come-from-behind overtime victory in Boston Thursday night.
WILLIAMS TO DEBUT WITH KINGS
Los Angeles will get an extra boost in its contest against Pittsburgh with the addition of Justin Williams to the roster. Williams, acquired from Carolina at the trade deadline, will don the Kings crown for the first time in Friday’s match. He has been on injured reserve with a broken hand and is eager to prove himself to his new squad.
"I’m excited about the fact that this will be my first game in a new uniform," Williams said. "I want to show my teammates what I can do. I know I’m not going to be at my best but I’m going to work as hard as I can to make sure I get there and that I’m able to help the team with whatever role I have tonight.
"Coming off a broken hand, it’s not going to feel great the first game. It’s going to be sore for a little bit because you’re using it again. That’s going to be the biggest challenge tonight, but we’ll see how it goes."
Williams netted 10 points (3-7=10) in 32 games with the Hurricanes this season and brings an Eastern Conference perspective to the Kings’ bench that should help in tonight’s contest as he has already faced the Penguins this season.
"I know that Pittsburgh is a very skilled offensive team," Williams said. "They’ve even added some more talent with Bill Guerin and Chris Kunitz up front so they’re one of the most talented teams in the league up front and we need to be good defensively, it’s plain and simple. We know how dangerous they can be and no lead is safe since they have the top two scorers in the league. They’re tough to stop and we need to try to skate with them tonight."
Williams, 27, comes to the Kings with a Stanley Cup under his belt (won with Carolina in 2006) and nine seasons of experience in the NHL.
"We are a young team in the fact that nothing really phases us," Williams noted. "Regardless of how the game goes tonight, if we’re down a goal or if we’re down two goals or three, we have the attitude that says, ‘nothing is going to phase us.’ So we need to come out and try and get a lead tonight and try and get the crowd against them and I think we can do that."
Williams will skate as a right wing on the Kings second line with Jarret Stoll and Kyle Calder. The Kings top line of Teddy Purcell, Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown will stay in tact. Raitis Ivanans will move up to the third line with Michal Handzus and Wayne Simmonds with Alexander Frolov, Derek Armstrong and Peter Harrold skating as the team's fourth unit. Kevin Westgarth, John Zeiler, Oscar Moller, Brad Richards and Denis Gauthier are scratches. Kings Lines.
KINGS GOAL: SHUT DOWN GENO AND THE KID
Friday’s contest is the Kings’ second on a season-long six-game road trip. While the Kings are coming off of a huge victory, they are being careful not to overlook the Penguins’ potent offense.
Drew Doughty, who netted the game-tying goal against Boston with 1:36 left in the third period, is fully prepared to take on two of the NHL’s top-three scorers, Evgeni Malkin (102 points) and Sidney Crosby (92 points).
"You have to go out there like it’s just another game," Doughty said. "I don’t want to worry about having to play Malkin and Crosby, but when I’m out there I’m going to have to keep an extra eye on them because they are two of the most skilled forwards in the league and they put up a lot of points. But I’m just going to go out there and play like it’s just another game and not worry about it."
Doughty also expressed his excitement to play against two players he looked up to before he made it to the NHL.
"Malkin is leading the league in points and Crosby is right up there as well," Doughty said. "I watched them growing up because they had a few years in the league before I got here and to watch them and see the things they have accomplished is great. To be able to play against them is exciting."
Netminder Jonathan Quick, however, isn’t bothered by the big names on Pittsburgh’s roster and is ready for the challenge.
"Every team you play against has a couple of good scorers," Quick said. "Malkin and Crosby are highly talented and highly skilled, but we’re prepared for them."
Of course, it helps that the Kings found victory in an important match against one of the League’s toughest teams in Boston. The victory brings a higher level of confidence to the Kings locker room.
"Knowing that we can play with the best team in the Eastern Conference, I think that gives us the confidence to know that we can come out here tonight and for the remainder of the games in this road trip we can win those games as well," Doughty said. "It was huge. It was good to get that win. We’re in the playoff hunt and we pretty much have to win every game from here on out if we want to be in that playoff spot. It was definitely good to get that tying goal and we had a great effort last night. We beat the best team in the Eastern Conference and to take that win in overtime was awesome."
As for the Penguins, they are on the hottest win streak in the league. Pittsburgh is 9-0-2 in its past 11 games.
"I don’t think we’re worried about other teams as much as we’re worried about ourselves," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. "We really try to focus on us. Especially when you play a team that you don’t see that often, it’s even more important to focus on yourself, and we can do that. At the end of the day we want to make sure that we bring our best and if we do that we like our chances."
The Penguins acquired Chris Kunitz from Kings’ divisional rival Anaheim in late February but he is the only Penguin forward that has competed against the Kings this season.
"I’ve played a lot of times against these guys," Kunitz said. "You can expect hard fought battles, but usually it’s been really close games since it was such a big rivalry when I was in Anaheim. I may be able to give a little bit of insight on an individual guy and his tendencies, but other than that, not really."
QUICK TO START
Quick will start in net against the Penguins. In last night’s contest against the Bruins, he made 24 saves to keep Los Angeles in the game. Quick is eager to help his team to another victory over a tough offensive team.
"You just have to go in looking to give your team a chance to win," Quick said. "We watch video and study some of their better players so we are prepared for what they are going to throw at us."
HEY, I KNOW YOU
Tonight is a nostalgic one for Penguins interim head coach and former Los Angeles King, Dan Bylsma. Bylsma started his NHL career in Los Angeles and played 220 games with the Kings from 1995-2000.
"When they walked into the rink today, I saw a lot of familiar faces and a lot of old friends," Bylsma said. "For me, this is the team that I started my pro career with in the NHL so it’s going to be special. Seeing the jersey and these faces.
"As far as their team, they are a young team, a very energetic team. They’ve come out in the second half of this year and played some good hockey and won some games. They won a big game last night coming back against a good team in a tough building so I think you can expect a hard-working team, an energetic team that’s not going to quit no matter what the situation is and that’s what we’re going to prepare for."
Tonight is also a special night for right wing John Zeiler, who grew up just 20 minutes south of Pittsburgh.
"I grew up here watching the Penguins in the (Mario) Lemieux Era," Zeiler said. "It feels good seeing the surroundings, knowing certain spots, and pointing out things to the other guys on the team. There’s a lot of people calling and coming down to see me at the game and hopefully after the game. It’s great. I was a huge Penguins fan. It’s amazing playing in the same rink that Lemieux and the great ones played in, stepping out on the ice and seeing the fans in the stands. It’s a great feeling."
DOWN ON THE FARM
LA Kings goalie prospect Martin Jones was recently named to the WHL’s Eastern Conference Second All-Star Team for his play with the Calgary Hitmen. The Hitmen finished with the best regular season record in the WHL thanks in large part to Jones, who posted a record of 45-5-4, seven shutouts, a 2.08 goals-against average and a .915 save-percentage in 55 regular season appearances.
Meanwhile, defenseman Colten Teubert and goaltender Linden Rowat have joined the Ontario Reign as the ECHL squad make their playoff push...more. The Reign now have four Kings prospects in Ontario as Teubert and Rowat join goaltender Jeff Zatkoff and forward Bud Holloway.
Compiled by Deborah Francisco | Special to LAKings.com