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Anze Kopitar, Kings teammates are eager to feel playoff atmosphere

Center has heard stories from veterans on the team who participated in the postseason with other teams, and he can hardly wait.

April 05, 2010|By Helene Elliott

Over many dinners, Kings center Anze Kopitar has heard playoff tales from Rob Scuderi, who won the Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh last spring, and Justin Williams, a 2006 champion with Carolina, and soaked up every detail.

"The old stories come out," Kopitar said. "They kind of walked me through it and I watch the NHL Network to see all the clips from a couple years ago. You see the atmosphere on TV but you definitely want to experience it when you're on the ice."

Next week Kopitar will get his wish, joining many teammates in an NHL playoff baptism.

Like Kopitar, Jack Johnson, Peter Harrold, Drew Doughty, Wayne Simmonds, team captain Dustin Brown, Alexander Frolov, Raitis Ivanans, Davis Drewiske, Rich Clune, Scott Parse and goaltenders Erik Ersberg and Jonathan Quick have never known the rigors and rewards of NHL postseason play.

"It's a long time coming for me," Brown said Monday after the team practiced at El Segundo. "That was our goal at the beginning of the year and we did it with four games left.

"It's exciting, but at the same time we still have four games and we need to take these games just as seriously as if we needed to win every single one of them. I think it's important that we go into the playoffs on a roll, so these four games are pretty important."

Brown has an idea of what to expect from hearing Scuderi's playoff stories.

"But I think it's one of those things where you have to be there," Brown said.

Nelson Emerson, who works for the Kings in player development, played for them in 2001 when they upset Detroit in the first round and then took Colorado to a seventh game, and the next spring, when they lost a seven-game series to Colorado. He remembers the electricity at Staples Center and around town and hopes the current Kings will enjoy it as much as he did.

"It's the best time for hockey players," he said. "For these guys, being young, they're going to get into it and realize, ‘We want to be involved in it every year.'

"You can say, ‘You've got to get in the playoffs because you can't imagine what it's like,' and they look at you and don't really get it. Now, they're going to get it. Whoever we match up against, they're going to have to go to those buildings and it's going to be great for those guys."

Johnson said he feels prepared after winning a silver medal with the U.S. Olympic team — and is ready for more than a cameo appearance.

"I don't think you can have your goal at just making the playoffs. Your goal has to be to win the Stanley Cup," he said. "If you make the playoffs and lose you didn't win any more than the people who didn't make the playoffs. Getting there is one thing. Being successful there is a whole other thing.

"We have to be a team that makes the playoffs every year."

Slap shots

The Los Angeles chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers' Assn. nominated center/left wing Brad Richardson for the Masterton Trophy, given annually to the player "who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey." He has rebounded from injuries last season to score 11 goals and 27 points in a variety of roles.

"I've kind of been put in every situation this year and I think for the most part I've done a good job, so it feels good after a couple of tough years to be able to contribute," he said.

Jonathan Bernier was voted the top goalie in the American Hockey League by coaches, players and media. He leads the AHL with a .937 save percentage and nine shutouts, and his 2.03 goals-against average ranks second.

It figured that shortly after the Kings clinched their playoff spot Sunday, Southern California was rocked by the Baja California earthquake.

"We can move great things, can't we?" Coach Terry Murray said, laughing.

helene.elliott@latimes.com

twitter.com/helenenothelen

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