Originally posted on Fox Sports West  |  Last updated 12/27/11
By his own estimation, Sunday was the first Christmas in 33 years that Darryl Sutter didn't spend with his family. "Dean Lombardi and I came and watched lots of video yesterday morning," Sutter said at the Kings' morning skate on Monday. Whatever advantages they pinpointed after watching video were put into practice as Los Angeles erupted for four goals the first time the team scored more than two goals in regulation since a 3-2 win at St. Louis on Nov. 22 in a 4-3 win over the Phoenix Coyotes at STAPLES Center. With the win, the Kings improved to 4-1-1 in their last six games and have taken five of a possible six points since Sutter made his debut behind the bench in a win over Anaheim last Thursday. Though he didn't score, Anze Kopitar was the best player on the ice among the 40 that comprised the teams' lineups, finishing with two assists and tying teammate Dustin Brown for a game-best plus-three rating. On the game's opening goal, scored by Rob Scuderi on a blast from the right point just 4:09 in, Kopitar kept the puck in the zone along the right wing boards, stickhandled low into the right corner, and showed excellent puck possession before dishing back to Scuderi. "I think everybody's confidence is turning the corner. We're getting up again," Kopitar said. "Obviously we know we can play that type of game, a puck possession game, making plays and holding on to the puck in the offensive zone. It definitely pays off when you play in their zone, and you're going to get chances off that. Tonight we did a good job of that." Sutter wasn't ready to put Kopitar's name above any others in the overall effort that lifted Los Angeles to an 8-3-3 record against the rest of the Pacific Division. "We want our centermen to control the middle of the ice and be good down low," Sutter said. "I didn't think it was about individuals tonight." If the Kings can point to a healthy advantage over the majority of NHL teams, it's their depth at center. With his work in all zones of the ice, Mike Richards has come as advertised and when healthy has formed a strong one-two combination with Kopitar. Stoll, while struggling to find his footing offensively, remains responsible defensively and is one of the team's leading faceoff artists with a 56.2 percent success rate. Colin Fraser has added tenacity to a penalty kill that after a 2-for-2 performance Monday has now killed off 63 of 66 penalties. "If you look at the three centermen, Kopitar, Richards and Jarret are all on the ice a lot. And they should be," Sutter said. "We have a real solid center group with Colin and those three guys. They're an important part, and they're going to play a lot." Monday night it was Kopitar pulling the strings offensively as Richards and Stoll registered minuses in being held scoreless, further evidence of the opposition's challenge in shutting down all of Los Angeles' lines when the centers are healthy. This time, it happened to be Kopitar's opportunity to lead the offense with Phoenix finding success in limiting Richards. The defense also contributed offensively as Scuderi and Willie Mitchell scored, and Slava Voynov was eventually credited with an assist after his first period goal was awarded to Brad Richardson, who deflected the puck past Jason LaBarbera after planting himself in the goalie's line of sight. The Kings didn't make it through unscathed, though, as forward Simon Gagne was unable to return following a hit that will be re-evaluated by the team's training staff prior to their quick pre-New Years jaunt to Chicago and Winnipeg. "He got banged up in the first and we'll see him in the morning before we leave," Sutter said. NOTES: Scuderi liked Los Angeles' start. "You always want to come out and play your best hockey in the first period, by the time that you get to that first TV timeout and really just establish an attitude and a tone to the game. I thought we had a very good first period. Second period wasn't very good we picked up towards the end, but at that point we gave a lot of momentum back to Phoenix. But we finished up well." . . . Drew Doughty extended his assist streak to four games (0-5=5), tying a career high. Kopitar also has assists in four straight (0-5=5). . . . The Kings have averaged 36.1 shots in their last 10 games. . . . The Kings had two defensive prospects suit up in the United States' 11-3 win over Denmark to open up their 2012 World Junior Championships campaign: North Dakota's Derek Forbort, selected 15th overall in 2010, had two assists, while St. Cloud State product Kevin Gravel, a fifth round selection in 2010, was held scoreless. Both players finished with plus-two ratings.
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