X

Stanley Cup Finals Schedule 2012: Kings X-Factors Who Must Shine to Keep Edge

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistMay 31, 2012

VANCOUVER, CANADA - APRIL 11: Dustin Penner #25 of the Los Angeles Kings celebrates after scoring what proved to be the game winning goal against the Vancouver Canucks during the third period in Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Arena on April 11, 2012 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The Kings defeated the Canucks 4-2.  (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
Rich Lam/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Kings took control of the Stanley Cup Finals in Game 1 with an overtime victory thanks to Anze Kopitar. For the Kings to maintain that edge over the New Jersey Devils, the team's depth players must continue to hold up their end of the bargain.

Here's a look a three players who don't receive as much recognition as Kopitar, Dustin Brown or Jonathan Quick, but are still key to the team's success. For a series schedule to see when you can catch these players in action, click here.

GLENDALE, AZ - MAY 22:  Willie Mitchell #33, Anze Kopitar #11 and goaltender Jonathan Quick #32 of the Los Angeles Kings celebrate the Kings 4-3 overtime victory against the Phoenix Coyotes in Game Five of the Western Conference Final during the 2012 NHL
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Willie Mitchell

If you're looking to find Mitchell during a game, he's usually the player diving on the ice to block a shot or outworking an opponent in the corner to gain possession of the puck. He's a blue-collar defenseman who has no problem doing the dirty work.

He has just two points in 15 playoff games, but his real value is illustrated by the 46 blocked shots, 23 hits and plus-eight rating. The 35-year-old veteran takes care of business in his own end, and that's all the Kings need from him.

He can play in any situation and against any line without missing a beat. That type of versatility is what it takes for an underdog like the Kings to make a deep run in the postseason.

Dustin Penner

Following the worst season of his career, not a lot was expected from Penner heading into the playoffs. Actually, his lack on contributions was one of the main reasons the Kings weren't considered a big threat when their surprising run began.

He's bounced back in a big way, however. Through 15 games, he's tallied 10 points, which is only seven less than he had during the entire regular season. And two of his three goals have been of the game-winning variety.

Between coming up in the clutch and smart defensive playing, he's like a completely different player from the one Kings fans watched all season. His improvement came at the perfect time and needs to continue for a few more games.

GLENDALE, AZ - MAY 13:  Jeff Carter #77 of the Los Angeles Kings looks on during a break in Game One of the Western Conference Finals against the Phoenix Coyotes during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Jobing.com Arena on May 13, 2012 in Glendale, Ari
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Jeff Carter

The Kings traded for Carter from the Columbus Blue Jackets back in February. It's a move that has paid off big time for Los Angeles. He has four goals and five assists in the postseason and has played a vital role on the power play.

The team's top line will provide most of the offense, which takes most of the pressure of a secondary threat like Carter. He can play more freely, and that's when he's at his best, giving the Kings more depth than the Devils will be able to handle.

Based on the first game, the series is far from over. But as long as these three unsung heroes keep playing well, the Kings should be on the road to a championship.

🚨 SPORTS NEWS ➡️ YOUR INBOX

The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.