The Biggest Concern for Each Los Angeles King Heading to Sochi
The Los Angeles Kings will send six players to the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Four different teams will benefit from having an L.A. player or two in their lineup in what should be one of the most evenly matched Olympic hockey tournaments since NHL players began participating in 1998.
Each of these players will have a different role and each has something to be concerned about. Adjusting to the bigger ice surface and playing time are just a couple of the issues players will face in Sochi.
With that said, here is a look at the biggest concern for each King heading to Sochi.
Stats courtesy of NHL.com.
Anze Kopitar: Fatigue
Anze Kopitar is the most talented player on the Kings and therefore logs a ton of minutes. He's averaged over 21 minutes per game this season.
However, that's nothing compared to what he will be expected to do for Slovenia at the Olympics. He's the only current NHL player on the team and is on a completely different skill level than his teammates. On top of that, his father Matjaz Kopitar is the team's head coach.
The elder Kopitar must ensure that his son doesn't try to do too much and overexert himself.
Yes, Kopitar must play a ton of minutes for Slovenia to have any chance of competing. If a game gets out of reach, though, he should take fewer shifts in order to conserve energy for future games—both at the Olympics and back in the NHL.
Dustin Brown: Contributing Offensively
Last season, Kings fans would have expected Dustin Brown to be a lock as a top-six forward for the U.S. in Sochi. At present, his lack of offensive production this year has left many wondering what exactly his role will be.
He's a proven leader, a physical force and plays sound two-way hockey. However, should the Americans require secondary scoring—as the Kings have and will again down the stretch—will he step up?
Brown has just 10 goals and six assists for 16 points in 50 games. He doesn't need to average a point per game at the Olympics, but a key power-play goal or an insurance marker late could go a long way toward helping the U.S. get back to the gold medal game.
Jonathan Quick: Workload
There are two sides to this particular concern.
On one hand, Jonathan Quick will want to start every game and lead the U.S. to gold. However, that could cause some fatigue and lead to poor performances for L.A. once the Olympics are over.
On the other hand, there is a chance that Quick isn't named the starter and never sees the ice. Quick would be cold from not playing in weeks, not to mention frustrated and disappointed.
A perfect balance would be splitting time in the round robin with another goaltender before taking over the No. 1 job for the medal round. That appears to be the likeliest scenario given his strong performance since returning from injury and his ability to step up in big games.
Drew Doughty: Adjusting to the Big Ice
Drew Doughty is entering his second Olympics, having won gold in Vancouver with Canada in 2010.
The young defenseman will be asked to do a lot—both defensively and offensively on the power play—and must adjust to the bigger ice surface.
In the defensive zone, he must be aware of his position and angles to ensure that he doesn't get beat on the outside or screen his goaltender. On the power play, there will be plenty of space which Doughty must use to his advantage by moving the puck on his own or making quick, accurate passes to allow for one-timers.
The last major tournament on European ice he participated in was the 2009 IIHF World Championships in Switzerland.
Jeff Carter: Staying Healthy
He's the Kings' star sniper and is depended on to provide a large portion of the team's offense. However, he won't face that kind of pressure in Sochi with teammates like Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews and John Tavares.
Instead, he should be concerned with staying healthy. Carter has dealt with a number of injuries throughout his career—specifically to his feet.
Of course, many of these injuries are due to bad luck. Still, taking the proper precautions if something does go wrong is crucial, even if it means missing some time on the world stage.
Carter will need to be a huge factor if the Kings hope to get back to the Stanley Cup Final this spring.
Slava Voynov: His Assignment
Darryl Sutter doesn't regularly put Slava Voynov out against the opposition's top players. When he does, Voynov is partnered with a shutdown defender like Willie Mitchell or a stay-at-home blueliner like Robyn Regehr.
Team Russia doesn't have the luxury of rolling out a player or two like that, so it's possible Voynov may be given some tough assignments in Sochi.
Voynov—who has plenty of offensive skill—must concentrate on making sound defensive decisions, staying in position and limiting turnovers. Also, he must use his experience on the big ice surface to his advantage if he's up against either North American team.
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