EL SEGUNDO, Calif. - Unless you have been invited to the home of Donna and Dwayne King, or the residence of their eldest son D.J., the best place in Meadow Lake, Sask., to watch a Los Angeles Kings' game these days is at the Milltown Sports Bar on 9th Street.
Meadow Lake, population 5,045, is the hometown of Kings' rookie sensation Dwight King. His No. 74 sweater has yet to be added to the collection that hangs inside the Milltown haunt, that includes three other NHLers from Meadow Lake, but manager Darcy Friesen said that if Dwight brings a Kings sweater back home this summer, they will be more than pleased to find some wall space.
"There is a buzz here with Dwight and the Kings playing so well," said Friesen, a distant relative to Jeff Friesen, whose New Jersey Devils' sweater hangs inside the Milltown beside D.J.'s St. Louis Blues' jersey, and one from Blake Comeau's days with the New York Islanders.
"I know when I come in here for breakfast people are talking about Dwight. They come in here specifically to watch the games, too. It has been exciting."
King has been a big contributor to the Kings' playoff success. He has five goals in 12 games, including two game-winners, after scoring five times in 33 regular-season games over the past two years.
Credit 67-year-old Jack Ferreira, the Kings' special assistant to general manager Dean Lombardi, for the late-season addition of King and Jordan Nolan. He long felt that the pair of 22-year-old forwards deserved to be called up from the AHL's Manchester Monarchs.
Ferreira finally got his wish on Feb. 11, when the two were called up as replacements for an injured Jarret Stoll.
Kings coach Darryl Sutter, who during a break in the schedule saw Nolan and King play in the minors, placed the two in their first game with second-line centre Mike Richards.
While L.A.'s coaching staff has to keep reminding the two youngsters to use their size, the team is getting consistent contributors and is one win away from its first Stanley Cup final since 1993.
Nolan, who plays right wing on the fourth line, is 6-foot-3 and 227 pounds. King is listed at 6-foot-2, 234 pounds.
All the right moves
King started the playoffs on the second line with Richards and Jeff Carter, but has played even better since Sutter shifted him to the left side of the Kings' third line, alongside Stoll and Trevor Lewis. The move has put less pressure on the youngster.
King has become comfortable in his NHL surroundings and that's a big reason for his production in the playoffs. There were similar patterns for his growth in junior and the AHL.
"Growth? He's still 232," Sutter joked. "After games, he's 228. Just because he's scoring, it's not growth. It's what he's done in his junior career and his pro career.
"He's a big kid that's strong on the puck and has a good feel for the game. We threw him right in. We were struggling on the wing, trying to get some scoring."
King had Darryl Sutter's younger brother Rich as an assistant coach in Lethbridge, where he was a 34-goal scorer in junior with the Hurricanes in 2007-08, when the Spokane Chiefs beat them in the WHL final. He checked in with 24 goals in 72 games with Manchester a year ago.
Both King and Nolan agree that to get called up at the same time and share this experience together has been helpful. They live in a hotel not far from the Kings' practice facility. They spend their free time going out to eat and taking in movies.
Nolan is the son of former NHLer and Buffalo Sabres coach Ted Nolan, who coached Latvia at the world championship, and has arrived to watch his son play.
King's parents - Donna is a secretary and Dwayne is a truck driver - and brother D.J., who plays in the Washington Capitals' system, also are in town to take in the Hollywood scene, plus the playoff atmosphere that the Kings have shared with the NBA's Lakers and Clippers.
For a 22-year-old kid from Meadow Lake it has been quite an experience.
"It's a dream," he said. "You want to be a part of the Stanley Cup playoffs and to be a contributor is even better. We're obviously winning, so everything is coming around.
"I'm definitely taking it all in. You can't ask for much better."
Odd and ends
Colin Fraser has rejoined the Kings. He missed Game 3 to return to Canada after his son was hospitalized...The Kings will stay in a downtown hotel close to the Staples Center on Saturday evening. Game 4 (CBC, CBCSports.ca) has a noon local start and there have been warnings of traffic chaos because of the eighth and final stage of the Tour of California bike race that will finish near the Staples Center on Sunday morning...If the Kings close the deal on the West final on Sunday, they would become the first team to go 12-1 and advance to the final since the Stanley Cup playoffs changed its playoff format to four rounds of best-of-seven format in 1986-87...Phoenix defenceman Adrian Aucoin, who has yet to play in this series, could return to action from his lower-body injury on Sunday.
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