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Carter's 17 goals coming in every way imaginable

by Curtis Zupke

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Darryl Sutter often speaks his own language, his sayings dispensed with a unique bluntness that hits home through his farmer's tongue.

Getting him to wax poetic about a player takes patience because his compliments are tossed out like grenades: When they hit the ground it gets everybody's attention. So it was through Sutter-speak that he revealed some explanation of Jeff Carter's fast-drip scoring spree.

Jeff Carter
Center - LAK
GOALS: 17 | ASST: 2 | PTS: 19
SOG: 68 | +/-: -1
"Everybody looks at Jeff just because it's outside speed and all that, but really most of his goals have come from between the dots and that triangle, where the goalie's got to make a pretty good save," Sutter said.

"You look at the goals … he scores goals on his off side. It's sort of like Jarome [Iginla] where he scores goals on his off side. He'll go up top, he'll go low. Where you're not just seeing how he shoots it. And then around the net, he just scores where it's natural. He's [shooting] to score, not just [shooting] to shoot.

"I like that -- when you're getting on guys to score on rebounds and all that instead of just another save. He's a hard guy to defend, I think, because it's not that he's perimeter, it's not like he's inside. It's like those guys that they're just going to compete to score. It's not something you've got to learn. It's something [that comes naturally]."

That combination of knack, skill and drive in the so-called "house" area, from the slot to the face-off dots, has unfolded quite naturally for Carter, whose 17 goals in 22 games ranks second in the National Hockey League. He has 13 goals in his past 13 games and is on pace for 35 goals in a 48-game schedule.

Carter beefed up in the summer, going from 199 pounds to his listed 210. He declined to play overseas during the lockout and instead worked out with about 10 teammates -- sometimes speed and agility drills in extreme late-summer heat on a football field across the street from the team's practice rink.

Jeff Carter has ignited the defending champion Los Angeles Kings with 17 goals -- many of which have come from difficult angles. (Photo: Getty Images)

"Having a summer where I was healthy, too, and wasn't trying to heal injuries, I was able to do a little more," Carter said. "I felt good coming in here. I felt strong and quick. That always helps.

"I feel good. I've played like this before. I had a couple of seasons where they were kind of up-and-down. I'm comfortable now and I feel like I'm in a good position to succeed."

Carter's 2011-12 season began disjointed because he separated his shoulder and was saddled with savior-like expectations when he was traded to a Los Angeles Kings team that was 30th in the NHL in scoring at that time. Few remember that he was on crutches after the regular-season finale because of a bone bruise in his foot, yet finished tied for the team lead in goal-scoring in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Sutter likened Carter to a "greyhound," and said, "He's one guy that made a huge commitment to getting better again."

It helps to have Mike Richards as his center, although Richards has primary assists on only five of Carter's 17 goals (and eight overall). What is impressive about Carter's history of scoring is that his trademark laser wrist shot comes off a blade that has slightly more curve than a butcher's knife that Carter has used since he was 15.

"There's no need to change it," Carter said. "I'm comfortable with it. I haven't really used anything different."

Kings captain Dustin Brown, part of the same 2003 NHL Draft class as Carter, has seen that shot since he played against Carter in junior hockey.

"He just scores where it's natural. He's [shooting] to score, not just [shooting] to shoot."
-- Kings coach Darryl Sutter on the goal-scoring prowess of Jeff Carter

"You have a routine shot from outside and it challenges a goalie to make a really difficult save just because it's so quick and heavy," Brown said. "Not a lot of guys have a release like him.

"The way he shoots -- I don’t want to say [it's] typical. His hands are really close together. A lot of his mechanics are pretty different from most people who shoot really heavy. I mean, it's time to take it off his stick."

Carter leads the NHL with six game-winning goals. Four of his goals also have been first goals to help L.A. get the jump. Not all of them have come on wrist shots. He scored against the Dallas Stars on a centering pass that bounced off a defender's skate. At least one other has been of the fluky variety.

"When you're hot, you're hot," Brown said. "That goal against Dallas -- if that's anybody else that shoots the puck, it doesn't go in the net. It's one of those types of things. Everything's going right right now and that's a product of his habits and how hard he works."

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