A trio of young Los Angeles Kings players were on a United States roster that experienced heartbreak in the gold-medal game at the Vancouver Olympics, while one of their NHL teammates played a key role for the winning Canadian side.
All four of them will reunite with a different goal in mind.
Gold medal-winning defenseman Drew Doughty(notes) and his American counterparts hope to continue the Kings’ push toward their first playoff berth in eight years as the team returns from the Olympic break by visiting the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night.
But Doughty - the youngest member of Team Canada - ended up with bragging rights over his NHL teammates after he was on the ice for Sidney Crosby’s(notes) tournament-winning goal in overtime of the Canadians’ 3-2 win on Sunday.
“(Doughty’s) been my teammate for two years, so I’m happy that he won obviously,” Brown said. “But we get back here, and the Olympics are over. For all the guys that participated, that needs to be our mindset. We’re a King again, and we’ve got to come together.”
The confluence of young talent has made Los Angeles (37-20-4) one of the league’s biggest surprises this season. The Kings are in fifth place in the Western Conference, and it would take a major collapse for them to miss out on their first postseason appearance since 2002.
Two of the biggest reasons have been Quick and Anze Kopitar(notes), a Slovenian whose nation did not qualify for the Olympics. Kopitar leads the Kings with 64 points, and he has five goals in three games against Dallas this season - all wins. He’ll try to quickly shake off any rust from two weeks off.
Los Angeles coach Terry Murray sounded more worried about Quick, who has won 10 of his last 11 starts to match Mario Lessard’s franchise record for wins in a single season with 35.
He’ll have a chance to break it Tuesday, and he’s 5-2-0 with a 2.30 goals-against average against Dallas.
“I have a bit of concern (about rust), but I’m going to put that aside and just put him in net and get him going again,” Murray said. “It’s a big month for us and he’s our key guy, and we have to get him back into the game, and physically, mentally, I think he’s ready to go.”
Murray said there’s “no switch to flick” for the Kings’ Olympians as they readjust to NHL play.
“I think this is the same kind of scenario,” the coach said. “We’re looking at an opportunity to play your best hockey, there’s going to be a lot of intensity, a lot of desperation.”
The Stars (28-21-12) are even more desperate as they try to climb into playoff position in the West. They went 3-0-1 in their last four games before the break, including two shutout wins by Marty Turco(notes), and they’re hoping to build on that momentum.
Turco will be in net Tuesday, pushing back the Stars debut of goalie Kari Lehtonen(notes). The Finn has not played an NHL game since last season due to his recovery from back surgery, but he’s ready to go after Dallas acquired him from Atlanta last month.
“Our plan is that we’re going to try and win every game. That’s the way it has to be,” Stars coach Marc Crawford told the team’s official Web site. “Marty’s going to get the first game and that’s as far as we’ve gone.”