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Kings' Jeff Carter is quick on the draw

The veteran forward is a dangerous man when he pulls the trigger around the net. Carter has 17 goals, tied for third in the NHL.

March 13, 2013|By Lisa Dillman

What does a revenge-seeking gunslinger from Missouri possibly have in common with a pure NHL goal-scorer born and bred in Ontario, Canada?

A lot, apparently.

The continuing education of Jeff Carter, whose 17 goals are tied for third in the NHL, knows no bounds. The Kings' forward received another unusual tutorial from his boss, General Manager Dean Lombardi, after the lockout ended in January.

Lombardi's meetings with his players are legendary in terms of length and scope. With Carter, he served up the fictional gunslinger Josey Wales as an inspirational teaching moment.

"I had no idea who it was," Carter said, smiling. "I do now."

Wales also served as part of Lombardi's syllabus during the run to the Stanley Cup last spring when Lombardi showed then-struggling Carter a clip from "The Outlaw Josey Wales," the movie starring Clint Eastwood in 1976.

Are you going to score goals, Jeff, or whistle Dixie?

"When you sit back and think about it, there's a lot of similarities in the movie he showed me," Carter said. "The quick draws and you've got to think ahead of the guy, which comes into play in hockey a lot."

The "Wales Effect" came into play just in time for the Western Conference final against the Phoenix Coyotes when Carter recorded his first career playoff hat trick in Game 2. That set the stage for the game-winning goal in overtime of Game 2 in the Final against the New Jersey Devils and two goals, including the game-winner, in the Game 6 Stanley Cup-clincher.

Carter, 28, added about 11 pounds of muscle in the off-season, and said he got up to about 215 before dropping some weight during the hectic season schedule.

He has been the Kings' best player since camp started and has carried that on with panache. His 17 goals are three behind NHL leader Steven Stamkos of Tampa Bay, and he had 13 in 13 games, from Feb. 11 through March 9.

For Coach Darryl Sutter, it was like getting a new player this season. He doesn't readily bestow compliments but last week called Carter "money."

"He's just got that gift to shoot and when you have that, it's obviously a good weapon," said center and linemate Mike Richards. "I don't watch much soccer, but say Ronaldo gets the ball somewhere around the box, he's a threat.

"He doesn't have the puck very often, but that's all he needs is that half a second to get the puck off. It surprises a lot of goaltenders how quick he gets it off."

Carter joked about working on his shot as a kid, and, at times, creating a path of destruction in the driveway. His dad made a full-size net so the youngster could practice. "I broke a lot of fences, yeah," Carter said. "Had to repair 'em a bunch."

Kings captain Dustin Brown grabbed one of his own sticks in the hallway after a recent practice and demonstrated how Carter holds his hands close together on the stick, marveling at how he manages to get that deadly wrist shot off "so quick" with those mechanics.

"At least 90% of anybody who has scored 40 goals has a wrist shot like that," linemate Dustin Penner said. "It's how quickly he can get it off with minimal effort. I'm not saying he doesn't exert effort, but he can shoot it as hard with what seems minimal movement with his wrist and arms as a guy who has to really step into it and just shoot it as hard or three-quarters as hard."

Carter said he has benefited from playing with Richards and Penner, knowing that Penner has a way of finding him if he gets to the right spot. "He's such a big body and when he sticks his [butt] out, not too many people can knock him off the puck," Carter said.

Carter scored 46 goals for Philadelphia in 2008-09, the first of three consecutive seasons he would lead the Flyers in goals before they traded him to the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2011.

Carter went from 36 goals two seasons ago to 21 goals in an injury-marred 55-game campaign last season, which started in Columbus and ended in Los Angeles. The Kings acquired him from Columbus for defenseman Jack Johnson and a first-round draft choice a few days before the trade deadline.

"He's a guy, not only as a player, who likes to feel comfortable in his surroundings," said Richards, who played with Carter in Philadelphia. "When you're not like that, it's just not the same. Now he's feeling comfortable, after coming to a new team, getting to know everybody, getting to know the surroundings. Not living in my spare bedroom anymore."

KINGS AT SAN JOSE

When: 7:30.

Where: HP Pavilion.

On the air: TV: FS West. Radio: 1150.

Record vs. Sharks (2011-12): 2-1-3.

Etc. San Jose ranks No. 3 in the league in penalty-killing efficiency (87.2%).

lisa.dillman@latimes.com

Twitter: @reallisa

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