LA Kings’ quartet of youngsters help spark fast start

Author: Eric Stephens, dailynews.com
Date: Nov 9, 2017

ANAHEIM — Adrian Kempe was playing in the American Hockey League at this time a year ago. So were Mike Amadio and Kurtis MacDermid. Alex Iafallo wasn’t even a pro, playing his senior season at Minnesota-Duluth.

The Kings have not only worked the four into their lineup but seen them make notable contributions to their eye-opening 11-2-2 after getting a 4-3 comeback win over the Ducks on Tuesday night at Honda Center. Kempe scored a key second-period goal late in the second period to pull them within one.

A franchise that was in need of new blood is getting quite the transfusion. Kempe’s six goals and 10 points in 14 games – much of it coming with Jeff Carter sidelined – is eye-catching but Iafallo scored his first goal Saturday and has fit in nicely on a line with Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown.

Iafallo’s puck-hounding ability showed Tuesday. The winger grabbed his own rebound and tapped the puck out to Kopitar for the center to score in the first period. And then there was a perfect cross-ice feed in the third that set up Brown for the game-tying goal on the power play.

“He’s definitely not shy with going right into the thick of things,” Kopitar said afterward. “He’s been doing that all season. My goal was really his work. He was in there by himself and he somehow go the puck and kind of sent it towards me. He made a great play to Brown on the third goal.

“But that’s what makes him a really special player. We’re going to need him to play like that as much as he can obviously and we’ll take it.”

Amadio also got his first NHL strike last week, while MacDermid and fellow rookie Oscar Fantenberg have been part of the third-pairing mix in the Kings’ defense corps.

“The injuries have really forced some of those young guys into more important minutes,” Kings coach John Stevens said. “Carter went down and Kempe created a lot more opportunity. I think with any young player, you want to see him take advantage of those opportunities.

“We felt at the time it’s next man up. There’s other guys who were waiting to play more, they wanted to play more. And we thought guys really take advantage of those opportunities.”

A winning atmosphere has certainly eased the transition of more youth into the lineup. Stevens said success has bred confidence but feels their jobs have been made easier by their longtime stalwarts – Kopitar, Brown, Drew Doughty, etc. – playing well in their own right.

“Our veteran group has done a really good job around those younger players in terms of insulating them with support,” Stevens said.

 

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