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Young Kings Supported by Playoff-Scarred Veterans

Apr 14, 2010 – 3:13 AM
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Monte Stewart

Monte Stewart %BloggerTitle%

Many Los Angeles Kings will be making their first appearance in the Stanley Cup playoffs, but they won't have to go far to get advice.

"They've got some (playoff) experience in that locker room," says former Kings associate coach Mike Johnston, suggesting the Kings are not as fresh-faced as they might appear.

Budding twenty-something superstars Drew Doughty, who excelled for Canada during the Olympics, Jack Jackson, Dustin Brown and even experienced stars Anze Kopitar and Alexander Frolov, among others, will be making their post-season debuts along with goaltender Jonathan Quick.

But Johnston, who helped develop the Kings' talent under Marc Crawford for two seasons between 2006-2008, says the kids can also look forward to getting some guidance from playoff-scarred veterans.

Forward Ryan Smyth is one of the Kings who've gone through plenty of post-season battles, having played in 81 post-season games and producing a respectable 52 points. He and Jarret Stoll, who has played 24 career playoff games, helped the Edmonton Oilers reach the Stanley Cup finals against the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006.

Veteran centre Michal Handzus has also played in 60 post-season games with St. Louis, Philadelphia.
"The key guys are still the key guys. They'll rise up and really play great."
-- Former Kings Associate Coach Mike Johnston

"You might see Handzus play a big role," says Johnston, now general manager and coach of the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League. "He's a guy who's obviously had playoff experience. He's playing very well this year. He had the bad knee injury (with Chicago in 2006-07, when he played only eight regular season games). The first year he came back from that, he really struggled. But this year, he's had a great year."

The six-foot-five Slovak, who plays a reliable two-way game, produced 42 points for the second straight season as the Kings made the playoffs for the first time since 2002.

Johnston predicts the Kings' youth and offensive talent will ultimately ignite them. They have 11 players who produced double-digit goal totals. In its last meeting with the Canucks, veteran coach Terry Murray's club coasted to an 8-3 victory on April 1.

In other words, it might not be necessary to look for a diamond in the playoff rough, Johnston suggests.

"The key guys are still the key guys," says Johnston. "They'll rise up and really play great in the playoffs. Kopitar is an all-world centre. Dustin Brown is a top-end player. You've got Doughty and you've got Jack (Johnson), and Jack and Kopi and Doughty were still pretty young when I was there. Now, they've really matured into very good players."

The Canucks are about to find out just how good the young Kings can be – with help from some savvy older teammates.
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