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Anze Kopitar looking refreshed and rebooted since Sochi

Anze Kopitar reached the quarterfinals at Sochi with Slovenia and came back exhilarated by the experience. He has led the Kings with nine points during eight-game winning streak.

March 12, 2014|By Helene Elliott
  • Kings center Anze Kopitar celebrates after scoring a goal for Slovenia against Austria in the Sochi Olympic Games on Feb. 18. Kopitar has played well since returning from the Olympic Games.
Kings center Anze Kopitar celebrates after scoring a goal for Slovenia… (Bruce Bennett / Getty Images )

Anze Kopitar has obliterated any fears that he might have been exhausted by his Sochi Olympic experience.

He was exhilarated by reaching the quarterfinals with his native Slovenia and sustained that emotion when the NHL season resumed. Kopitar leads the Kings with nine points during their eight-game winning streak, and they'll try to match the club record of nine when they face Toronto on Thursday at Staples Center.

"Definitely add emotionally. I had lots of fun," he said of how the Games affected him. "A great experience for me personally and for our team. For, I think, every single athlete that was there, just like it always is. Maybe it gives you a little boost. …

"Maybe sometimes a little bit of a change of scenery, a little break from the everyday that we have going here, it's welcome and kind of, I guess, reboots you."

Defense has been the Kings' foundation during the streak as they've outscored opponents, 25-12. Kopitar, one of the NHL's top two-way centers, has had an impact there too — he's plus-6 in that span.

Despite his offensive success, Kopitar hasn't been able to set up winger Marian Gaborik, who is scoreless in three games since he was acquired from Columbus. Kopitar, who has been centering for Gaborik and Justin Williams, said he has seen good signs from Gaborik and from opponents who back off in deference to Gaborik's speed and give the line more room.

"I think it's coming along. I think we've had some chances over the course of the last two games," Kopitar said Wednesday. "We didn't connect on any yet but I'm sure that's going to come too."

Gaborik praised Kopitar as a fine playmaker and someone he had to be aware of when they faced each other.

"We're creating some chemistry and it should get better and better," Gaborik said. "I'm adjusting, but it's going, I think, in the right direction."

Miller will return

Bob Miller, who is in his 41st season as the voice of the Kings, has agreed to a one-year contract that will take effect July 1. “At this point in my career I am signing for one year at a time,” Miller, 75, said via email. “After that I will decide what to do about the 2015-16 season.”

What's in a number?

Kings Coach Darryl Sutter isn't sentimental, so it's no surprise he wasn't emotional about the possibility of earning his 500th regular-season coaching victory Thursday.

"I think today's game, the most important part is percentages," he said, adding that awarding a point for overtime or shootout losses makes winning percentage a better measure of coaches' performances. In 1,023 regular-season games he has 499 wins, 371 losses, 101 ties and 52 overtime/shootout losses. His winning percentage is .563, based on points earned divided by points available.

"When we got the 1,000-game thing, [it means] you're able to do it over a long period of time. That means you can do that. But the winning and the percentage is what's important because at the end of the day that allows you to be a playoff team. I'm more into how many playoff games you're in as a coach than anything else. I'd rather have a whole lot of playoff games than anything else. Only reason you do it."

His playoff record is 72-67, including a Stanley Cup title with the Kings in 2012.



When: 7:30.

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

Etc.: Jim Fox, the former Kings winger and current broadcaster, will be honored before the game and the Kings will wear throwback Forum Blue and gold uniforms in the game. The Maple Leafs are 1-1 on their California trip after defeating the Ducks and losing at San Jose. Goalie Jonathan Bernier, traded by the Kings to Toronto last June, is 25-16-7 with a 2.59 goals-against average and .926 save percentage in 49 games.

Twitter: @helenenothelen

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