It was no surprise Anze Kopitar was the Kings' top preseason goal scorer, with five, and top scorer with eight points. But for winger Wayne Simmonds to share the goal-scoring lead was a revelation to a team that was starved for goals last season. Or was it?
"No, I'm not surprised," Coach Terry Murray said Thursday after practice in El Segundo. "I love the way he finished off the year last year. The last 10 games of the season he was arguably one of our top three players on the team and he had a great summer. You can see the improvement. He's really worked very hard.
"And his attitude has always been, 'I'm going to go after it and earn the right to be here again,' and all of his games I think he played at the highest level he could give us. He has the mentality of playing in the hard areas and he gets rewarded because of it."
The Kings often seemed allergic to the "hard areas" around the net. Ryan Smyth has made his living there and now Simmonds is joining.
"I just went to the net, crashed the net, fired more pucks. This year I'd like to get my production up offensively but without sacrificing my defensive game," said Simmonds, who had nine goals and 23 points in 82 games as a rookie last season.
He spent most of the summer at home in Toronto, making his shoulders noticeably broader by lifting weights. When he returned, he picked up where he left off with linemates Michal Handzus and Alexander Frolov. "We're all kind of the same player," Simmonds said. "We like to play down low with the puck. We like to hold onto the puck and try to create offense that way."
The more they create, the better the Kings' playoff chances. He firmly believes they'll get there. "We're not going to accept anything less," he said. "That's the big goal."
The Penguins got their Stanley Cup rings this week but defenseman Rob Scuderi, who left Pittsburgh to sign with the Kings as a free agent in July, hasn't gotten his jewelry yet. "My mother asked me, 'Do they just mail it to you?' " he said.
Not quite. He's expecting to get his ring from Penguins General Manager Ray Shero when they face the Kings on Nov. 5 at Staples Center. Scuderi said he wanted to be surprised by the design but his mother sent him a link to a picture of the diamond-encrusted ring. "I'm more focused on having a good start to this season," he said, "but getting it definitely will be something pretty special for me."
Center Jarret Stoll, hampered by arthritis in his right wrist during training camp, says his hand feels better and that tests showed inflammatory factors in his blood were near normal levels. "It feels like they are too. Normal is a good thing," he said. . . . Peter Harrold, who played up front throughout training camp, was back on defense the last two days. . . . Fewer than 1,000 tickets for Saturday's opener at Staples against Phoenix were available Thursday afternoon.