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King thriving since move to Kings' top line

by Curtis Zupke /

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Some players are fortunate enough to have their family and friends present to see their first hat trick, or at least to have them in the same time zone to catch it on television.

Not Dwight King, from Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan, a town with about 6,000 people and one stoplight.

His family, almost 2,000 miles away and an hour behind, had to stay up late to see him notch his first NHL hat trick with an empty-net goal Oct.24 against the Phoenix Coyotes. His teammates didn't do a big celebration afterward. King isn't even sure what happened to the puck.

"We'll see if it turns up," he said.

King's success has always been unadorned, but it's worth noting that he's holding down the top left-wing spot for the Los Angeles Kings. The hat trick gave King four goals, one shy of his career high, achieved last season. He's playing on a line with Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams after a solid preseason that carried over to the regular season and earned his blunt coach's trust.

Dwight King notched his first NHL hat trick with an empty-net goal Oct.24 against the Phoenix Coyotes. (Photo: Getty Images)

"He's been pretty good the whole time," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "I've said that in training camp about that position. He goes about his business every night. He doesn't stand out, but as I said, it's good to see him get rewarded for goals. Again, he's our most solid left winger night-in and night-out."

King admittedly had a disappointing follow-up to the Kings' 2011-12 Stanley Cup-winning season. That February, he was recalled along with Jordan Nolan and found a role on the third line with Jarret Stoll and Trevor Lewis. He stood out in the 2012 Western Conference Final, when he scored four goals.

But King's modest scoring contributions fell sharply last season. He went 31 games without scoring, from March 25 to June 4, and totaled four goals in 47 regular-season games and two in 18 playoff games.

"Obviously, you want to be a little more productive coming into a season where you didn't have a great season last year," King said. "Just competing shift in, shift out is the biggest thing for me. When I can do that and get the opportunity to get to play with different guys along the way, it's nice."

The 6-foot-4, 230-pound King has added parts to his game. His hat trick included a quick snap shot from a tight space and a nifty redirect with his back to the net. King isn't prolific, but he's certainly efficient; his four goals have come on 13 shots. Most nights, King's value is measured in the space he creates for teammates and the zone time he affords them.

"He's a big body and protects [the puck] well," Mike Richards said. "I think his skill level is underrated, along with how he sees the ice. I think he makes a lot of good plays that you don't expect him to make -- holding the puck down low, giving people time to get open. His vision on the ice is underrated."

How long King stays with Kopitar and Williams speaks to both King's season and whether L.A. can find other production on the left side, but it's notable that Sutter broke up Kopitar and Dustin Brown to make this happen. The experiment with Matt Frattin, considered the main piece in the trade for Jonathan Bernier, on left wing with Richards and Jeff Carter has seen Frattin move to the right side.

Sutter doesn't like to distinguish between first, second and third lines, but in training camp he pointed out that L.A. had the "lowest-scoring third line in the National Hockey League" and "lowest-scoring left-wing group" last season.

King and his teammates say they don't feel the pressure from Sutter so much as from within themselves. King is aware how precarious his role is and wants to make the most before it changes again.

"We move around, or I should say, I move around quite a bit," King said. "When I get this opportunity, I've got to take advantage."

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