Kopitar, Ryan go from teammates to opponents
The lockout helped bring the Kings and Ducks together in Southern California as they figured that it would be far more beneficial to join forces than to practice in two smaller groups.
Nine time zones away, the same thing was happening on a much smaller scale. The modest town of Mora, Sweden, was treated to the sight of two talented forwards in their prime, Bobby Ryan of the Ducks and the Anze Kopitar of the Kings, playing on the same line.
Seeing two NHL players who combined for 56 goals last season playing for a second-division Swedish outfit might be a once-in-a-generation thing.
On Saturday, Kopitar and Ryan played against each other for the first time since their Swedish sojourn. The Kings, who have recorded at least a point in their last four games, played the Ducks on Saturday night at Honda Center. Anaheim (4-1-1) is off to its best start since the 2006-07 season.
So, will that extra bit of familiarity give Kopitar any sort of additional edge against Ryan?
“You get to know the guy a little better,” Kopitar said, following Saturday’s morning skate in El Segundo. “You get to know his strengths and his weaknesses at the same time. But I don’t think we’re going to be playing any different against him. Going out there, we all know he’s a goal scorer.”
Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau has been tinkering with the lineup and had Ryan centering wingers Kyle Palmieri and Teemu Selanne. The trio combined for eight points in the Ducks’ 3-1 victory over Minnesota on Friday night.
Ryan admitted to growing pains at the position. It is not a complete mystery, however.
“There were a couple of times out there I was uncomfortable,” he said Friday. “Just trying to find where to be and the good thing in our system is guys are close together so I had a lot of help from our [defense] tonight.
“It might be something good. We’ll see. I think I’m a little more mature as a player than I was even last year when we tried it. It’s something I can thrive in and if it’s something we want to do long term, I’m open for it.”
It’s an adjustment process, no matter the skill level.
“I tried a couple of times left wing last year when I was on a line with Mike [Richards],” Kopitar said. “I didn’t feel good, let me tell you that. It might be a little better coming off the wing to go to the middle instead of having all that ice in the middle to have to go on the boards and be there. It’s a little difficult.
“I can see how he [Ryan] thinks it’s different. Especially growing up playing as a winger, it’s tough to get adjusted in no time. But I’m sure he’s got a few games now where he can get adjusted.”
With Kings left wing Dustin Penner emerging from his brief exile — he was a healthy scratch for four games — youngster Dwight King was on the outside against the Ducks, scratched for the first time this season.
Kings Coach Darryl Sutter lamented the continued lack of output on the left side.
“The left side has a grand total of two points this year,” he said.
“…He [King] didn’t play here till January last year and he really didn’t do much until the playoffs. He played in the playoffs and he played well. I think he went back to the American [Hockey] League and leveled his game out. And now he’s got to get his intensity back to an NHL level. He has to decide that.”