EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – Anze Kopitar got to know his friend and rival Bobby Ryan when the two played for Mora IK in Sweden during the work stoppage.
Kopitar actually recruited Ryan through his agent to bring him overseas.
But the two are back on different sides Saturday night when the Los Angeles Kings play at the Anaheim Ducks. Did Kopitar glean any more knowledge on how to play against Ryan after being his linemate?
"You get to know the guy a little better," Kopitar said. "You get to know his strengths and weaknesses at the same time … We all know he's a goal scorer. You got to play [well against] him just like any other guy in the League."
Kopitar said he hung out with Ryan during their off time and it's clear the two have respect for each other. Kopitar has feasted on the Ducks, with 37 points in 36 career games, while Ryan is known to have big games against the Kings. His spin-o-rama goal to complete a hat trick at Staples Center on Jan. 8, 2009 stands out.
Their friendship might get up close and personal now that Ryan is playing center and might take a few faceoffs against Kopitar.
"We'll be facing each other pretty often," Kopitar said.
This is the first meeting of the teams since Los Angeles won the Stanley Cup to match Anaheim's 2007 Cup triumph. Outside of Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau's open dislike of the Kings, both sides have downplayed the dynamic.
"They were the champs a few years ago," Kopitar said. "It will be like any other game. It will be physical. It will be intense. The crowd's going to be into it. We're looking for two points. It doesn't matter how they come."
Penner returns to the lineup: Dustin Penner will return to the lineup as the Kings look to generate scoring from the left wing.
Coach Darryl Sutter confimed to reporters Friday that Penner would return. Penner has not played since Jan. 22. He had no points with a minus-2 rating in the first two games, and conditioning seemed to be part of the issue.
The Kings have reverted to last season and are averaging 1.83 goals a game. Their power play is 2-for-33.
"Our left side has a grand total of two goals this year," Sutter said. "We need more balance right now."
Penner will likely slide into the left wing spot on the second line with Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, a line that was quite effective for the Kings in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Penner practically resurrected his career with 11 points in 20 postseason games.
Dustin Brown – Anze Kopitar – Justin Williams
Dustin Penner – Mike Richards – Jeff Carter
Simon Gagne – Jarret Stoll – Trevor Lewis
Kyle Clifford – Colin Fraser –Jordan Nolan
Rob Scuderi – Drew Doughty
Slava Voynov – Alec Martinez
Jake Muzzin – Davis Drewiske
Injured: Matt Greene, Willie Mitchell.
Scratched: Dwight King, Brad Richardson, Andrew Bodnarchuk.
Willie Mitchell has not skated for a week but club officials have said the defenseman has not had a setback from December knee surgery to remove cartilage. Mitchell said last month he wanted to be smart in his recovery and has been working out away from the ice.