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Pacific: Doughty playing well beyond his 20 years

by John Kreiser
Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty is all of 20-years-old. But he's more than proved that he can handle the pressures of life in the NHL -- he's built on his excellent rookie season and is one of the big reasons the Kings are among the NHL's elite this season.
Doughty's performance has engendered speculation that, despite his lack of experience, Doughty could be among the defenseman on Canada's Olympic roster. Kings coach Terry Murray feels his prize youngster would be more than able to contribute.
"I think that, the last Olympics, they missed on some players that would have been very big contributors to that team, speaking of the young guys that were just about there, on the bubble," Murray told the Kings' Web site. "So I think Doughty is a player you can't overlook. He's composed. He's been through the international experience. He's not in awe of anything that's going on out there, but (he's) very respectful, and he would be a good contributor to Team Canada."
Doughty also feels his lack of pro experience wouldn't hurt him in Vancouver.
"A lot of people look at experience, and it's obviously important to have that experience, but I think that even though I'm young and don't have that experience, that I can still do the job," he told the Kings' Web site. "I won't be nervous or anything. I'm sure it will be a little nerve-racking, because it's in Vancouver; but as long as I get a few shifts in me, I think I'd be fine out there."
Stephane the scorer -- For someone who went a full season without scoring a goal just three years ago, Dallas defenseman Stephane Robidas has emerged as an unlikely offensive force.
Robidas had no goals and 17 assists in 75 games in 2006-07. But with Sergei Zubov's playing time increasingly diminished by injuries during the past two seasons before he left the Stars this summer, Robidas has assumed a much more offensive role.
Through 32 games this season, he has 7 goals (5 on the power play) and 19 points, both tops among Stars defensemen. He's closing in on his career-highs of 9 goals and 26 points. But the 5-foot-11, 190-pounder hasn't forgotten his main job: He leads the NHL in hits with 116 and is second on the Stars with 65 blocked shots.
On a team with a host of under-25-year-olds on the blue line, the 32-year-old Robidas is taking on a leadership role as well.
"That's something that I really enjoy, it's a good challenge for me," the 10-year NHL veteran told the Stars' Web site. "We've got a good group of defensemen; I really enjoy playing with those guys. I think we're all learning together, we can get better, but I think we're moving along and we're getting better as the season's moving forward.
"That's something that I take pride in. It's a good challenge for me, I'm not the most vocal guy, I'm just trying to lead by example and guys are doing a good job."
Looking for wins -- Losing streaks have become an unusual item in San Jose, where the Sharks have been among the NHL's best regular-season teams during the past few seasons. So an 0-2-3 stretch that includes four consecutive home losses has the Sharks looking for some answers during a week in which they play only once.
"I think we have to acknowledge we haven't won in five and where we are," coach Todd McLellan said. "The most important thing is we as a group have to realize there is not a significant difference between the teams (out West) any more. We play 80-85 percent of our games against the West, and there is not a weak team or a runaway team. It's going to be that way the next 50 games."
Despite the slump, the Sharks' 45 points still has them tied for first in the Western Conference and tied for second in the NHL. That's not bad -- but for a team that won the Presidents' Trophy as the regular-season champions in 2008-09, it's not good enough.
"You take the last two years and this is the longest we've gone without a win," captain Rob Blake told the Sharks' Web site. "So I don't think it's a little funk. When you go five without a win, you have to find the answer."
Blake feels the problems are mental, not physical.
"It's not physical, it's not injuries, it's not preparation," he said. "Conditioning is not a problem. It's mental. When we watch the video we see the mistakes. Guys need to get mentally engaged."
Bad start to big week -- Having proved they can win at home, the Phoenix Coyotes are spending the week before Christmas seeing if their success at Arena will carry over to the road.
For one night, at least, the answer was "no" -- the Coyotes lost 3-2 at Detroit on Monday night in a game they never led.
That triggered a tough workout on Tuesday, courtesy of coach Dave Tippett.
"We were off last night," forward Scottie Upshall told the Coyotes' Web site. "There's no question that there were times in the game that we weren't very good. We were soft in areas and we lost battles. ... Today was to regroup, refocus and to get the legs going. We were worked on a lot of just getting pucks to the net and getting to loose pucks."
Tippett called the practice as a "refresher course" on doing the little things that have the Coyotes among the top eight in the West.

"I've sat out eight games in a row and that's not fun. You play hockey because you like to play... I'm just looking forward to creating energy for the lineup and getting out there and running around like a meathead." -- Phoenix Coyotes forward Paul Bissonnette

One player who's eager to contribute is Paul Bissonnette, who sat out in Detroit -- his eighth game in a row as a healthy scratch.
"I've sat out eight games in a row and that's not fun," Bissonnette said. "You play hockey because you like to play... I'm just looking forward to creating energy for the lineup and getting out there and running around like a meathead."
Around the Pacific -- Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick was named the NHL's First Star for the week of Dec. 7-13. Quick won all three of his decisions and now has 19 victories. ... Corey Elkins, the top scorer at AHL Manchester, made his NHL debut with Los Angeles at Edmonton on Dec. 15. He got the call after Jarret Stoll went down with a groin injury Monday night in Vancouver. ... San Jose is enjoying a rare break in the schedule this week. The Sharks' home contest against Anaheim on Thursday is their lone game in a nine-day stretch. ... The Sharks entered the week with the NHL's lone pair of 20-goal scorers. Dany Heatley has 21 goals and Patrick Marleau has 20. No pair of teammates in the NHL has more. ... The Dallas Stars played the longest shootout in franchise history on Dec. 11 when they beat the San Jose Sharks 3-2 in an 11-rounder. Defenseman Matt Niskanen got the game-winner, and Marty Turco stopped 10 of the 11 San Jose attempts. ... Dallas entered the week on a 28-for-28 streak in killing penalties away from home. ... Anaheim forward George Parros has a lot less hair this week. He had his hair cut as part of third annual George Parros Cut for the Kids. He donated his hair to the Childhood Leukemia Foundation to provide children suffering from medical hair loss with wigs. The evening raised $2,500 for the foundation. ... When Phoenix gave goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov the day off from practice on Tuesday, goaltending coach Sean Burke strapped on the gear and filled in. Burke played in the NHL from 1988-2007 and spent parts of five seasons with the Coyotes.
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