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Kopitar to play 1,000th game for Kings with mixed emotions

Forward excited for milestone, wishes it would take place during playoff race

by Dan Greenspan / Correspondent

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Anze Kopitar will play his 1,000th NHL game Monday with mixed emotions.

Kopitar is excited to become the fourth player in Los Angeles Kings history to play 1,000 games for the franchise, joining Dustin Brown, Dave Taylor and Luc Robitaille, but wishes the game against the Calgary Flames (10 p.m. ET; PRIME, SNW, NHL.TV) came in the thick of a Stanley Cup Playoffs race instead of with the Kings already eliminated from postseason contention for the third time in the past five seasons.  

"I'd much rather have, obviously, a different scenario with the game (where) it would matter, but I still think it's going to be really cool for me playing in the 1,000th game just because I have experienced a few of my current teammates and my former teammates hit it," Kopitar said. "Just to be in that position is pretty cool."

Kopitar has 885 points (311 goals, 574 assists) in 999 NHL regular-season games and ranks fifth in franchise history in points, goals and assists. This season, the 31-year-old leads the Kings with 57 points (21 goals, 36 assists) in 77 games.

Video: SJS@LAK: Kopitar dekes, pots go-ahead goal in 3rd

Though not going to the playoffs this season, Kopitar has elevated his play during the postseason over the years, with 66 points (21 goals, 45 assists) in 79 games. He tied Brown with a team-high 20 points (eight goals, 12 assists) when the Kings won their first Stanley Cup championship in 2012. Kopitar led the team with 26 points (five goals, 21 assists) when the Kings won the Stanley Cup in 2014.  

"He's been a good player for a long time, (the) reason they won a couple Cups," Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane said. "It seems like as he goes that team goes, and you saw that last year with the amazing year he had."

Kopitar was a Hart Trophy finalist in 2017-18 with an NHL career-high 92 points (35 goals, 57 assists). He won the Selke Trophy, awarded to the League's best defensive forward, last season.

Goalie Jonathan Quick, who was part of the same 2005 draft class as Kopitar, credits the center's calming influence for helping the Kings "play in the moment" during the two title runs.  

"He just brings such, like, a calm presence to the locker room and to the ice when you get in those situations, especially high-pressure situations where you're trying to win games to get into the playoffs or win playoff games," Quick said. "He's just so consistent and calm and just does his job. He just knows how to get the job done, right? I guess that's the best thing to say about him."  

Video: FLA@LAK: Kopitar pots Brown's dish to take the lead

While Kopitar has been a part of numerous milestones this season, including scoring his 300th goal against the Edmonton Oilers on Jan. 5, Quick getting his 300th win in the same game against the Oilers, and Brown playing in his 1,112th game against the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday to set a new franchise record, he remains confident the Kings' core is capable of adding more team success alongside individual milestones. 

"It just goes to show you how good as a group we are just to stick around for that long," Kopitar said. "And it just goes to show you that we've been doing something right around here."

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