Jeff Carter checks Antoine Vermette
The veteran center leads Los Angeles in points and the team is surging, despite injuries to Anze Kopitar, Jonathan Quick and Marian Gaborik. How do they do it?
Jeff Carter had a pretty nice Sunday. Not only did the big center help his team get a win over the rival Anaheim Ducks, but he did it in style. Carter picked up three points for Los Angeles in a 3-2 win, surpassing 600 career points in the process.
The Kings are now 6-3-1 in their past 10 games and it's worth noting that franchise center Anze Kopitar has missed the past five contests due to an upper-body injury. Now pile on the fact that Los Angeles has essentially gone the entire season without all-world goalie Jonathan Quick and veterans scorer Marian Gaborik. That the Kings are now in a three-way tie for first place in the Pacific Division with the Ducks and Oilers is a testament to the healthy survivors – players like Carter and defenseman Drew Doughty (who had two points last night while playing more than 26 minutes against the rugged Ducks).
Having a veteran core is paying dividends for the team.
“It’s always good, right?" Carter said. "You win, you learn a lot. You lose, you learn a lot too. We’ve got a lot of guys who have played a lot of games. We’ve been around for a while through good times and bad. It makes you a better player in the end.”
With nine goals and 17 points through 20 games, Carter is on pace for his best offensive season yet with the Kings. A scapegoat in Philadelphia and a villain in Columbus, the 31-year-old is now sitting on two Stanley Cups and an Olympic gold medal with Canada, with gas left in the tank.
Because here's the thing: Kopitar, Quick and Gaborik will get healthy at some point. And once they do, Los Angeles becomes an even more difficult team to deal with. The Western Conference seems uncharacteristically damaged this year, with Chicago once again emerging as the biggest threat. And would anybody turn down another playoff series between the Hawks and Kings?
Both teams have kept their cores together throughout the years, filling in the roster with young players or guys with something to prove. The result, more often than not, has been success. And wouldn't ya guess it? Los Angeles is once again one of the best possession teams in the NHL.
“We play from our end out," Carter said. "And it usually works out for us.”
They're also starting to score. The Kings tipped the twine just 19 times in their first 10 games (not counting shootout winners), but have 30 goals in their past 10 matches. For a team that was bounced from the playoffs in the first round last year, the Kings will want to prove that they can still be monsters in the post-season. And if they continue to hold the fort until all the stars come back, that's exactly what they'll be.