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Kings have lots of company at game-day skate

The Kings were swarmed by Toronto media Tuesday after the team's game-day skate at the Air Canada Centre. The interest can be chalked up to the fact that they're rarely in Toronto due to an unbalanced schedule, as well as their success this season.

Kingslogo Defenseman Drew Doughty, soon to play for the Canadian Olympic team at the Vancouver Games, was the main attraction, but Wayne Simmonds got his share of attention in advance of playing in his hometown. Winger Ryan Smyth found a crowd around his locker too, as a former captain of Canada’s national team.

“I like the buzz here,” backup goaltender Erik Ersberg said as he watched cameramen and reporters jockey for position around his teammates. “Especially when it comes to the games. Everybody cares about hockey, and they think it’s the biggest thing. I guess maybe if you play for the Leafs, it’s not as fun. If you win, it’s completely different.”

Ersberg said he also enjoyed the constant stream of hockey highlights and discussions on radio and TV here.

“It’s fun. Back in the States, it’s basketball and football all the time,” he said. 

Ersberg and tonight’s starter, Jonathan Quick, got a little extra attention Tuesday, and not only from the media.

Both submitted to having their measurements taken by tape measure and recorded by NHL representatives who were preparing for new rules that will regulate goalies’ pads in proportion to each player’s size. The rules are scheduled to take effect next season.

At first glance, though, it looked like Quick and Ersberg were being measured for new suits. “If they want to give me a free suit, I’ll take it,” Ersberg said, “but I think it was for the pads.”

Praise from Ron Wilson

Maple Leafs Coach Ron Wilson has done his share of verbal sparring with local reporters during a disappointing season for his team, and he couldn’t resist a few jabs Tuesday while praising the Kings and their personnel.

Kings center Anze Kopitar, he said, “can make any defenseman in the league look bad at any moment. A lot of guys hardly know Anze Kopitar. He’s becoming one of the better players in the league that nobody knows about.”

Toronto reporters, he said, didn’t know how to spell Kopitar’s name until they looked it up this morning. Not true, they insisted, and one joked they had actually looked up the spelling last night.

Wilson, who will coach the U.S. Olympic team at the Vancouver Games, also praised Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi — a member of the Olympic selection committee — as “one of the best.” He added that Lombardi “set a model for the Sharks and has obviously done the same thing for the Kings. They’ve remained patient.” That’s more difficult to do in Toronto.

Slap shots

The Kings’ scouts have been meeting with Lombardi since the team arrived, and many of them will be at the game later today. Most NHL teams have been holding scouting or organizational meetings the last week or so. The Olympic break is coming up and so is the March 3 trade deadline, and most clubs want to get a sense of where they stand before they buy or sell before the deadline.

Winger Teddy Purcell is scheduled to be scratched from the lineup and replaced by enforcer Raitis Ivanans, but Coach Terry Murray plans no other changes. Neither does he intend to switch up anything on the power play, which was 0 for 27 over the Kings’ previous six games.

“We’re not going to change a lot there. We really feel that in the last few games — several games actually — we’ve had some real good offensive-zone time,” he said. “There’s a matter of a break that’s needed right now where we’re going to get the puck in.”

More later at latimes.com/sports

-- Helene Elliott in Toronto

 
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