The Los Angeles Kings captain, Anže Kopitar, expressed sadness and gave an explanation for his decision to not play with the team.

The Los Angeles Kings captain, Anže Kopitar, expressed sadness and gave an explanation for his decision to not play with the team.


Kopitar on cusp of becoming Kings’ all-time games played leader

Latest milestone for 2-time Cup champ who ‘is probably going to go in the rafters’ in Los Angeles lore


ST. PAUL, Minn. — There is little doubt Anze Kopitar will be remembered as one of the most prominent names in Los Angeles Kings — and NHL — history, and a milestone that will fall Saturday will propel the 36-year-old center higher toward that pinnacle.



Kopitar, a two-time Stanley Cup winner, will become the Kings’ all-time leader in games played with 1,297 when Los Angeles hosts the Boston Bruins at Crypto.com Arena on Saturday (10:30 p.m. ET; BSW, NESN). He tied Dustin Brown for most games played in Kings history at 1,296 in a 7-3 win at the Minnesota Wild on Thursday.



“I know this for sure: His number is probably going to go in the rafters next to ‘Brownie’s’ (Brown) and ‘Blakey’s’ (Rob Blake) and Luc’s (Luc Robitaille),” Los Angeles coach Todd McLellan said Thursday. “And his picture is probably going to be on a wall in Toronto (at the Hockey Hall of Fame) — at least I believe that.

“So that’s a pretty simple answer for what he’s meant to the organization.”



Besides helping lead the Kings to the Cup in 2012 and 2014, Kopitar is a five-time NHL All-Star, two-time Selke Trophy winner voted as the League’s top defensive forward and a two-time Lady Byng Trophy winner voted as the player most exhibiting sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct.



He has also been Los Angeles’ leading scorer the past six seasons and in 15 of his previous 17 in the NHL. He has amassed 1,146 points (395 goals, 751 assists) and is nearing other Kings milestones; he is eight points from tying Robitaille (1,154) for second place on Los Angeles’ all-time list behind Marcel Dionne (1,307) and is six assists from tying Dionne (757) for the Kings’ all-time assist record.



“What can I say? There’s so much to say, so much good to say about him,” forward Kevin Fiala said. “He’s an idol for everybody. An icon. He does everything well. The small details. Comes to the rink every day and works hard.

“Just wow.”


Center Blake Lizotte said he recalls watching Kopitar helping Los Angeles to his second Cup title in 2014 in a Game 5 defeat of the New York Rangers.


“I was actually a Kings fan then, I wanted the Kings to win,” said the 25-year-old, who elected to cheer for Los Angeles after his native Minnesota Wild were eliminated. “I was like, ‘Now I’m a Kings guy.’ I remember watching ‘Kopi’ and just being starstuck. Like this guy’s unbelievable. And then you get to know him and you’re like, he’s an even better person. This guy is just one of the best.”



Lizotte said Kopitar has been there from Day One of his young career, not just as a captain and leader but as a mentor as well.



“I don’t think I can count all the things I’ve been able to take from him,” Lizotte said. “A few things that stick out are just how he treats other people with respect, whether that’s the media or training staff; there’s no hierarchy — and he’s a guy that has all the right to be arrogant or cocky and he’s not. He’s just down to earth and humble.



“And also, he’s having fun with the game. He has to have fun to play that long. That’s a lot of hockey games. Not to say they’re all fun, there are times when it’s a grind and I think I’ve taken that from him, too. As a leader he has that balance of when we need to dial it in and be serious, but also when we need to step back, move on, and have fun.”



McLellan points to Kopitar’s willingness to do it all with every player on the team as a reason he has been able to achieve so much — and anticipates he is far from done.



“Throughout all of his games, since I’ve been here, his presence, his commitment to both sides of the puck; he’s a mentor and role model for just about every young player coming up,” McLellan said. “Whether you’re a forward, D-man or goaltender.



“We’ve been very, very fortunate to have him and, knock on wood, he’s not showing any signs of slowing down or anything like that, so we have a really good player for a long time yet.”


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