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Kopitar front and center in Kings' search for goals

by Curtis Zupke

LOS ANGELES -- Anze Kopitar smiled and laughed the notion.

After the bulk of reporters cleared from his scrum, the Los Angeles Kings forward sat at his locker and confirmed that, no, he is not hurt.

"Everything's fine," he said.

It's probably a fair question to ask, though, in the midst of the worst goal-scoring slump of his career. Kopitar hasn't scored a goal in 18 games going into Game 3 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals on Saturday night against the St. Louis Blues (10 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS). His last goal was March 25 against the Chicago Blackhawks. His previous long for a drought was 14 games last season.

Kopitar isn't concerned about it.

"Right now it doesn't matter who gets it," he said. "It's a matter of who's getting a win. If I get it, great. If I set it up, great. This time of year nobody's looking at how many goals you scored, but it's a matter of how many wins you get."

Kopitar is doing almost everything but scoring, though. He has 13 assists in those 18 games and is getting the job done in the faceoff circle. He also plays on the penalty-killing unit and blocks shots. Linemate and captain Dustin Brown said Kopitar's Selke Trophy-qualities more than make up for his goal output drying up.

"Everyone's taking notice that he hasn't scored in a long time, but you haven't seen his defensive game slip or any other part of his game slip," Brown said. "Sometimes players go into slumps. As a player, you can't explain it. Every player's been there. I had a 15-game goal-less drought. You definitely think about it as a player, but it hasn't affected any other part of his game, and that's a sign of a player who knows how important he is to his team and how much more can do other than score.

"His defensive value to this team goes unnoticed around the League. He's one of the best defensive forwards in the League and best two-way player on our team."

Before the Stanley Cup Playoffs began, coach Darryl Sutter sounded like Kopitar was the least of his concerns.

Still, this is a puzzling stretch for the Kings' leading scorer the past six seasons. Kopitar had nine goals and 20 assists over the final 26 games of the 2011-12 regular season and was a point-per-game player in last year's playoffs, when he co-led in postseason scoring with Brown.

At least in the first two games of this series, it's indicative of L.A.'s inability to get inside on the Blues. Kopitar has four shots in two games. Brown and Justin Williams and second-line wing Jeff Carter have 29 of the team's 58 shots.

"We have to find ways to get more at the net, because more is better," Sutter said. "What's the commercial? That little girl? More. You get less of more and we want more. If you did it by straight stats -- we've taken 50-some shots on net. Three guys have half of them -- Brownie, Willie and Jeff have half our shots. You need to get a little bit more out of everybody."

Those questions about Kopitar being hurt have slightly more validity because he had a right MCL sprain playing for Mora IK on Jan. 5 and has since wore a knee brace. It's logical to guess he might be banged up.

Kopitar offered his own type of guess about what to expect.

"Yes, I would like to score," he said. "I've got a good feeling about tonight."

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