Reporting from Toronto — The Kings' game against the Toronto Maple Leafs Tuesday will be an expensive occasion for right wing Wayne Simmonds, but he doesn't mind reaching deep into his pockets to subsidize his own rooting section.
Simmonds will play in his hometown for the first time, and he's expecting about 15 people to attend the game and cheer for him. He said today his three brothers, his sister, his best friend's family, his parents and "a lot of buddies" are scheduled to watch him at the Air Canada Centre, where the average cost of a Maple Leafs ticket is $117.49. That's more than double the NHL average of slightly more than $51 per ticket.
"The most expensive tickets in the NHL," said Simmonds, who said he was more a Detroit Red Wings fan than a Maple Leafs fan as a kid. "You know, it's always good to see family and friends."
Kings Coach Terry Murray said he wants Simmonds and other players who will have family in the stands to enjoy the moment but not get too caught up in it.
"I have concern that young players, over my experience, try to put on a little bit of a show at times. And when you get away from your game and away from the team play, the system, something not so good could happen," Murray said.
"So I'll remind the young guys of that. There will be several guys who fall into that category."
Murray probably doesn't have much cause to worry about Simmonds becoming giddy. He's remarkably poised and smart at 21, strong along the boards and as conscientious defensively as he is in the offensive zone.
"He's a great team player, first of all, and he knows his role on the team. That's so important for a young guy like him, to know the role and accept that role," said center Anze Kopitar, who is a year older than his right wing.
"You want to score as many goals as you can, but sometimes you've got to make little plays there that are going to make the difference in the game. He's been great. His plus/minus is 18 now, which I haven't seen in the past. Not a whole lot of guys on our team were plus. I think he's playing really smart team hockey."
And team play is leading to better individual numbers.
Recently placed on a line with Brad Richardson on the left and Kopitar in the middle, Simmonds has recorded at least one point in five straight games and has two goals and six points in that span. Overall, he has 12 goals, 30 points and a team-leading +18 plus/minus ratio in 47 games.
That means he's not likely to drop his other responsibilities to try and impress his friends and family.
"I don't think that will happen for me. I'm kind of an even-keeled guy," he said. "I try not to get too high or too low. Tomorrow's just going to be another game for me. It just happens to be in Toronto, my home city."
In case he strays, Kopitar is ready to nudge him back into line.
"Obviously you want to not show off but do as much as you can," Kopitar said, "but Simmer, he knows better than that. He's not going to run around and be out of position. Maybe it's a little bit of my job to calm him down and talk to him as the game goes along."
If the need arises, he'll have plenty of opportunity to talk to Simmons, since Murray trusts him on the penalty killing unit and four-on-four as well as regular shifts. "And I don't see where it will be too far down the road he'll get some power-play time," Murray said. "He's developing the right way."
There was an interesting moment during the Kings' practice today at the Maple Leafs' practice facility. After Toronto skated the Zamboni was grooming the ice to prepare for the Kings' session but stopped without covering the entire sheet. It didn't break down: everything had to stop so Toronto Coach Ron Wilson could finish a news conference at one end of the rink. Players began rapping the boards and the ice with their sticks, letting Wilson know they were aware of what was going on.
Murray plans to make one change and insert enforcer Raitis Ivanans into the lineup. "I think I need him," Murray said. He wouldn't say who will come out because he hadn't told the player yet. . . . Defenseman Davis Drewiske, who has missed eight games because of a shoulder injury, continues to practice. "We started off a couple days ago, the end of the trip was the goal and I think it's still in that category, in that area."