Kings' Jeff Carter embraces leadership role | Hockey | CBC Sports

Hockey Night in CanadaKings' Jeff Carter embraces leadership role

Posted: Tuesday, May 20, 2014 | 11:35 AM

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Seeming energized by a pair of young linemates, Jeff Carter ranks third in Kings playoff scoring with 12 points in 15 games. (Stephen Dunn/Getty Images) Seeming energized by a pair of young linemates, Jeff Carter ranks third in Kings playoff scoring with 12 points in 15 games. (Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

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He's never been regarded as one of the game's great leaders, but Jeff Carter suddenly finds himself thrust into a mentor-like role with the Kings while skating on a line with youngsters Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson.
Jeff Carter hasn't always delivered the goods.

A gifted goal scorer with the body of a Greek god, the 29-year-old London, Ont., native at times just seems to be going through the motions, not entirely engaged in games. Get him the puck in the clear, though, and he can score with the very best in the NHL.

That's why, even though he doesn't always put up big numbers, he was an attractive option for Canada's Olympic hockey team. His three goals in Sochi helped Canada win the gold medal and represented the highest total among forwards on a team that didn't score much.

Although he has never been thought of as one of the game's great leaders, Carter suddenly finds himself thrust into a leadership role with the Kings while skating on a line with a couple of kids -- Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson.

While Los Angeles has been wildly inconsistent in this year's Stanley Cup playoffs, the Carter-Toffoli-Pearson line has been a pleasant surprise.

As he closes in on his 30th birthday, Carter appears energized by playing with Pearson, 21, and Toffoli, 22. Carter ranks third in Kings post-season scoring with 12 points (four goals) in 15 games while Toffoli has four goals and eight points and Pearson two goals and seven points. They are a combined plus-8 and will need to continue to play at a high level if the Kings are to win the Western Conference final against the Chicago Blackhawks, who took the opener Sunday.

"It goes quick when you are in this league," Carter said. "Seems like yesterday that I was that young guy kind of going out there and just wheeling around and playing hockey, having fun. You can definitely see that in [Pearson and Toffoli] when they get the puck and create chances; they put the puck in the net. Tyler scores [Sunday] and you see them laughing at each other. They have a blast out there. It's a lot of fun."

Toffoli and Pearson were rivals in the Ontario Hockey League, playing for the Ottawa 67's and Barrie Colts, respectively, but have come together as linemates and pals with the Kings.

Toffoli got his first taste of NHL playoff action last season, scoring two goals and six points in 12 games.

"With Tyler, he had some success last year," Carter said. "[They] are both young players who can shoot and make plays. I mean, he's a confident player."

Shaw getting close

Chicago centre Andrew Shaw appears close to rejoining the team. Shaw has been out since May 2 with a lower-body injury. He has two goals and four points in seven playoff games.

"We'll put him in practice [Tuesday] with the full group," said Chicago coach Joel Quenneville. "We'll make an assessment [Wednesday].

Beware of Kings snipers

Quenneville is pleased with his team's play, but knows the Kings are at their best when they fall behind in a series. They have suffered a pair of three-game losing streaks in this year's playoffs and yet are still alive and kicking.

The 'Hawks coach particularly worries about the Kings' top trio of Anze Kopitar, Marian Gaborik and Dustin Brown.

"The top line is very dangerous," Quenneville said. "They're a real threat off the rush. They have some real patience with the puck and their play recognition is higher. They are a threat to score almost every time they are on the ice."

Kopitar leads the playoffs in scoring with five goals and 19 points in 15 games, while Gaborik is right behind him with a league-high nine goals and 15 points. Neither registered a point in the series opener and both were minus-1.

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