LA Kings: Longevity, leadership underline importance of Anze Kopitar

Thursday’s game vs. Colorado was a momentous one for the LA Kings captain.

Playing in what was his 1,077th game, Anze Kopitar tied Luc Robitaille for third-most on the Kings’ all-time games played list. Kopitar now only trails Dave Taylor and teammate Dustin Brown.

But, if anyone thought that this would be Kopitar’s only contribution on Thursday, they would be mistaken.

Despite a strong start against the red-hot Avalanche, the Kings fell behind 2-0. The silver-and-black were undeterred, however, as they would storm back for four unanswered goals to win their first game of the season. As for the game-winner — scored by Adrian Kempe — it was set up by none other than the Kings captain himself.

Following Thursday’s victory over the Avs, Kopitar spoke with the media about the victory, setting up the winner as well as his camaraderie with the Kings’ all-time leader in games played, the aforementioned Dustin Brown.

“Maybe it’s not the start that we wanted, getting scored on pretty early in the game again,” the Kings captain began. “But, you know, we showed character going down against a team like Colorado. [That’s] not the easiest task to, first of all, shut them down for the rest of the game and, you know, scoring goals. So, I thought we showed quite a bit of character today. Obviously, there’s still a few [areas] we can improve on, but we’ll take the win and then go from here on out.”

On the game-winner, Kopitar shoveled it from just behind the Avs net in front to Adrian Kempe, who tapped it past netminder Hunter Miska, who happened to be making his Colorado debut on this night.

“I was just trying to surprise their goalie and their D-man instead of turning a full 180 to show that, you know, I was going to pass,” Kopitar elaborated. “Instead, I just wanted to make a quick play, and it ended up working out.”

As for Dustin Brown, Kopitar didn’t hesitate to express his feelings about the former Kings captain.

“He’s like a brother to me,” a poignant Kopitar said of his longtime teammate. “We’ve played together for the better part of 15 years.

“Been through downs at the start of my career and early on in his career; been through a couple ups, winning championships. So, to be able to have him alongside is very special to me and, you know, hopefully, we can keep this thing rolling.”

He may have lost a step from his days of helping his team to Stanley Cup success, but Anze Kopitar nonetheless remains an invaluable member of the LA Kings.

His games played mark may underline the 33-year-old’s longevity — not to mention loyalty — to this proud franchise, but it is his leadership-by-example, his late-game heroics, that separate Anze Kopitar from most others who have donned the silver-and-black.

We are still very early into this unusual season, but as long as Anze Kopitar is healthy, fans can rest assured that, win or lose, the LA Kings will be in good hands and competing to the very end.