Carter's scoring touch could change course of series
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Sometimes Jarret Stoll will catch himself watching teammate Jeff Carter unleash his wicked wrist shot.
The puck seems to explode off his stick, and it's heavy even when he fires it from the perimeter.
Center - LAK
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 3 | PTS: 4
SOG: 24 | +/-: 3
"It's extremely hard," Stoll said. "He holds his hands pretty close together when he stickhandles and he just fires it and it's gone. It's got to be very tough for a goaltender to pick up sometimes, and if you're accurate like he is, then it's even tougher."
The Phoenix Coyotes have yet to see Carter's trademark shot. Carter came to the Kings from the Columbus Blue Jackets in late February, after L.A. had finished its six-game series against the Coyotes. Carter, in fact, didn't face Phoenix as a member of the Blue Jackets and last played against Phoenix on Feb. 22, 2011, with the Philadelphia Flyers.
If there is a clear difference-maker in the Western Conference Finals between the Kings and Coyotes, it's Carter.
"A guy with that skill level and a guy that can shoot the puck like he does and score goals at every level like he has -- those are game-breakers, series-breakers and guys you want on your team," Stoll said. "We're definitely lucky to have him. He's a big part of our team. He pots a couple of goals, it's going to be huge for us."
The Kings are still waiting for that big wrist shot to have a true impact in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Carter had six goals in 16 regular season games with Los Angeles but has only one goal in nine playoff games, which came during a four-goal first period barrage in a 5-2 win in Game 2 of the semifinals against St. Louis.
Carter was slowed by a bone bruise in his ankle at the start of the playoffs and just recently started to get better physically. While his presence on a line with Mike Richards and Dustin Penner forces the opposition to account for him and has therefore opened up L.A.'s scoring, Carter and the Kings would like to see tangible results.
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"Up and down," Carter described his postseason. "I felt like the last series I was starting to get back to where I want to be. Obviously I've still got a ways to go, but I'm feeling better every day."
Carter came to L.A. from Columbus for defenseman Jack Johnson and a first-round draft pick on Feb. 23 as Los Angeles was desperate for scoring. It was the second time that Carter and his massive contract were traded in eight months. Carter has 10 years remaining on a deal that will count $5.27 million against the salary cap until 2022.
Carter went from a bottom-feeding Columbus team, where he was reportedly unhappy, to a playoff-bound Kings team where he was reunited with Richards, his former Flyers teammate. The two, who were portrayed as partyers in Philadelphia, hang out at Richards' Manhattan Beach residence and have taken in some Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers games.
Carter sometimes strolls by the beach and can't help but think of his career path this season.
"It's pretty crazy," he said. "I never thought I'd end up here, especially this quick. Obviously I'm happy with how it's worked out. I love the beach. It seems like it's the perfect fit for me."
The glaring aspect missing is playoff production. Defenseman Matt Greene has as many points [four] as Carter, who can't be blamed for a lack of trying as his 24 shots on goal are third on the team behind Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar.
Although it was somewhat perfunctory, Carter's goal against St. Louis might have helped in getting that feeling back again.
"You get that one and you feel better about yourself," he said. "You're confidence starts to get going a little bit. I've had a few chances there. The chances are coming, so hopefully I'll put a few more in this round."