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Childhood friends Couture, Doughty are playoff rivals

by Rick Sadowski
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- They grew up together, were teammates for a few years as youngsters and both wound up as NHL first-round draft picks.

They'll face off in a Stanley Cup Playoff game for the first time Thursday night when Logan Couture's San Jose Sharks meet Drew Doughty's Los Angeles Kings at HP Pavilion in the opener of their Western Conference Quarterfinal series.

They remain close friends from their childhood days in London, Ont., have left text messages for each other leading up to this series, and Doughty suspects more than a little trash talking will take place when the now-California rivals step on the ice.

"I'm sure there will be," Doughty said Thursday morning. "There was during the regular season, so it's not going to stop here. It's probably going to increase now. It's a lot of fun trash talking, him especially."

Doughty grew up a Kings fan and was selected by his favorite team with the second overall pick in the NHL entry draft in 2008. Couture, who admitted he followed the Buffalo Sabres as a child, was taken by the Sharks with the ninth pick in 2007.

"It (stinks) that we're buddies and one of us is going to be going back home after the first round, but I'm really hoping that it's him," Couture said. "I think for about three or four years we played together (with the London Jr. Knights). We grew up as good friends. I lived a couple minutes away and we still hang out all the time in the summer.

"To have two players like that growing up together and making it to the NHL, and to face each other in the first round of the playoffs, it's a small world."

Couture, a 22-year-old center, played four years with the Ottawa 67s in the Ontario Hockey League and is coming off his first full NHL season. He is a candidate for the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie after scoring 32 goals and adding 24 assists in 79 regular-season games.

"I'm focusing on one trophy right now," he said, referring to the Stanley Cup.

Doughty, a 21-year-old defenseman, played three years with the Guelph Storm in the OHL before turning pro. He completed his third NHL season with 11 goals and 29 assists in 76 games He eventually is expected to win a Norris Trophy.

"He's been a good buddy of mine forever now and we still hang out during the summer," Doughty said of Couture. "I've told many people we're friends off the ice, but when we get out there, especially in this playoff series, there aren't going to be any friends. We're going to play each other hard, probably even harder because we are friends. It's going to be a lot of fun playing against him."

Both players gained valuable playoff experience a year ago.

Doughty had 3 goals and 4 assists in six games when the Kings lost to Vancouver in the first round. Couture played 25 regular-season games with the Sharks but spent most of the season with Worcester in the American Hockey League. He had 4 goals in 15 playoff games with the Sharks as they advanced to the conference finals before losing to Chicago.

Sharks coach Todd McLellan feels that experience was invaluable for Couture.

"The fact that he played in a significant amount of playoff games last year … he not only dressed but contributed," McLellan said. "He found a way to score big goals and played in all situations. It gave him a ton of confidence coming back this year. He took that opportunity and he ran with it and now we expect the same from him in the playoffs."

Couture and Doughty know each other's on-ice tendencies so well that it will be interesting to see how – and if -- they find ways to adjust.

"He does that little spinorama move," Couture said. "I'm sure the guys know that already. He loves to jump up into the rush. He's their best D-man and we're looking forward to shutting him down."

Doughty is up to the challenge.

"You can tell him I know his as well," he said of Couture's moves. "We play a lot of pickup hockey in the summer, so he probably does know a lot of things I do. He knows my spinorama and stuff like that. When he's covering me, I'm probably going to have to make the simple play. It's tough playing against someone who knows you so well, but if I mix in a couple different moves, hopefully he won't know what to expect."
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