Kings left wing Dwight King, right, celebrates with goalie Jonathan Quick… (Mark J. Terrill / Associated…)
Kings left wing Dwight King could have given the expected answer when he was talking about previous influences in his life, namely if any of those folks reminded him of Coach Darryl Sutter.
Rich Sutter, right?
Rich, the younger brother of Darryl, was an assistant coach when King played junior hockey for Lethbridge, Canada, of the Western Hockey League. King called both Sutters "great men," but thought of someone else from back home in Saskatchewan who comes close to Darryl.
"He actually reminds me of my older uncle [Daniel] in how he carries himself — he's a hands-on guy," King said. "He's there when you need a kick in the butt or when you need a pat on the butt."
The other unexpected answer came when King was asked about his current reading selection. It wasn't post-teen lit or Canadian lit but rather a classic page-turner from 1876.
"I was reading 'The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,' " King said. "Haven't read it in a long time. Just catching up on it."
How about the adventures of Puck Finn, starring King?
The kid from Meadow Lake — a town of about 4,000 — has gone from starting the season in the minor leagues in Manchester, N.H., to one game from making the Stanley Cup finals. Game 4 of the Western Conference finals is at noon Sunday at Staples Center with the Kings on the verge of sweeping Phoenix.
Not only does the 22-year-old King have five goals in 12 playoff games, but he also has outscored the Coyotes by himself, four goals to three.
Just like everyone thought …
"I would not have believed them, that's for sure," King said. "Crazy things happen in hockey. Just happy to be a part of it right now. ... It's a dream. You want to be part of the Stanley Cup playoffs. To be a contributor is even better. Everything is coming around."
He is one goal from tying the Kings' rookie record for goals in a series, set in 1982 against Edmonton by Daryl Evans, who is now one of the Kings' radio commentators. Warren Rychel holds the rookie record for goals in a playoff campaign (six) when the Kings reached the Stanley Cup finals in 1993.
A King playing for the Kings? Talk about a gift for headline writers.
King and his close friend, teammate Jordan Nolan, are still living in a hotel, no different from when they were called up from Manchester on Feb. 10. In fact, King was the one who broke the news to Nolan that they would be joining the Kings.
Something else has not changed. Sutter does not lavish praise on his younger players, and not even five goals in the playoffs will force him to do so.
Still, Sutter got off a good line Friday when asked about King's growth in the last month or two.
"Still 232 [pounds]," Sutter said. "After games he's 228. ... Better than he was when we got him, right? Just 'cause he's scoring, I don't think it's growth. That's kind of been what he's done in his junior career and his pro career. Same thing."
King has a strong hockey background, not only shaped by the path of his hard-hitting, older brother D.J., who started his NHL career with the St. Louis Blues and is now in the Washington Capitals' system. In between the King brothers were two hockey-playing sisters, Danene and Dayna, who both skated for the University of Saskatchewan.
Five years between the two brothers enabled them to forge a different sort of relationship. "He's a mentor more than a rival," Dwight King said.
D.J. was able to take in his first Kings playoff game, on hand to see Dwight's game-winner early in the third period Thursday night in Game 3.
"He didn't give me any grades, but said I played well," King said.
"Guess that's an A."