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Johnson deal opened spot for Voynov

by Dan Rosen

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- In order to trade Jack Johnson to Columbus in exchange for Jeff Carter in February, members of the Kings' brass had to have confidence that Slava Voynov could fit right in and play in the top four.

Slava Voynov
Slava Voynov
Defense - LAK
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 1 | PTS: 2
SOG: 15 | +/-: 3
They did, and Voynov is rewarding them for it in these playoffs, especially in Game 1 against Phoenix on Sunday.

Voynov made the pass out of his own end to Dustin Brown in the neutral zone, springing the Kings' captain on a semi-breakaway that led to the game-winning goal in L.A's 4-2 win at Arena. Voynov now has two points in the playoffs, but he's also a plus-3 and is giving the Kings 18 minutes of ice time per game on the second pair alongside Willie Mitchell.

"I knew it created a spot for me and it was a big chance for me," Voynov said Monday when asked how he felt after the Kings traded Johnson to the Blue Jackets for Carter. "The coaches and (general manager) Dean Lombardi trust me. I knew I could do this before the trade. Dean Lombardi told me to be ready at all times."

Lombardi told last week that he had an idea Voynov, a second-round pick in 2008, would fit in with Mitchell after seeing them play together earlier in the season before Voynov was sent back to Manchester of the American Hockey League on Feb. 10.

"They were really good, and actually he probably should have been with the team then when I sent him back," Lombardi said. "But, it gave me a snapshot and I said, 'OK, if we've got to do something, we can do it.' "

Lombardi now looks at the Voynov-Mitchell pair as one of the key late-season adjustments, along with bringing up Dwight King and Jordan Nolan and moving Carter with Mike Richards so Jarret Stoll could play on the third line, both he and coach Darryl Sutter had to make in order to get the team to reach its potential.

"They byproduct of it is it's a really good fit because it's lefty-righty," Lombardi said referring to the Mitchell-Voynov pairing.

Voynov said it was easier for him to fit back in once he was recalled after the Johnson trade because he was going in to play with Mitchell.

"He helps me a lot because sometimes I don't see a couple of plays and he talks with me," Voynov said. "Willie has a lot of experience playing in the NHL. It's easy to play with him."

"Mitchie has done a good job with him of being the older guy and helping him out when he needs to be helped out," added Kings goalie Jonathan Quick. "Slava has showed him a thing or two as well. That's great."

It doesn't happen without the trust of Lombardi and Sutter.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter: @drosennhl

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