LOS ANGELES — Kings captain Anze Kopitar admitted Monday he didn’t know much about new interim coach Willie Desjardins, who was hired after John Stevens was fired Sunday. But goalie Jack Campbell knows all about Desjardins.
Desjardins was head coach of the Texas Stars of the AHL for two seasons, during which time Campbell was one of his goalies.
After the Kings defeated the Ducks 4-1 on Tuesday night in Desjardins’ first game, Campbell praised his disposition.
“I think that calm demeanor helps you stay calm, and I thought the boys responded to everything he said and stuck to the game plan,” said Campbell, whose team took on the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night at Staples Center.
Campbell had mixed emotions. On one hand, he was disappointed about Stevens, as well as assistant coach Don Nachbaur, losing their jobs. On the other, he seemed thrilled that Desjardins was Stevens’ replacement.
“Yeah, it’s exciting,” Campbell said. “I mean, obviously, it’s a tough thing what we just went through with really good people, things like that. But with Willie being here now, I’m excited. We had a lot of success as a team in Texas, so nothing better than winning a championship.”
The Texas Stars won the Calder Cup championship in 2013-14, Desjardins’ second year there. Although Campbell only played 16 games that season because of injury, he posted a fine goals-against-average of 1.49.
This season, Campbell has a GAA of 2.50 in 11 games and has become the Kings’ No. 1 goaltender because of the knee surgery that has sidelined Jonathan Quick.
Desjardins likes what he sees from his former minor-league goalie.
“He played good,” Desjardins said of Campbell’s days in Texas. “But his level of maturity has really gone up. You have to give a lot of credit to Billy (Ranford) and Dusty Imoo for how he’s developed.”
Ranford is Kings goaltending coach. Imoo is in goaltending development.
“He’s a different goaltender than when I had him,” Desjardins said. “He’s confident. You can see that throughout. He’s played great this year, so it’s good.”
Since Campbell is so familiar with Desjardins, he did mention a few things to his teammates about him.
“I told them he’s a calm guy, he loves to win, we have a lot of fun when we’re winning, so expect that,” Campbell said.
TRIBUTE TO THE FALLEN
The Kings and Wild wore stickers on their helmets Thursday night that read “Enough” to honor the 12 victims of Wednesday night’s mass shooting at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks.
Also, the Kings plan to donate all proceeds from the club’s 50-50 raffle to the Ventura County Family Foundation and Kings players will match those proceeds. The team will also donate the proceeds from Saturday’s 50-50 raffle when the team takes on Calgary at Staples Center.
“This is a horrible event, another senseless act of incredible violence, and it clearly hits home here with us again as Thousand Oaks is part of our community,” Kings president Luc Robitaille said in a statement. “We are thankful to the first responders and everyone who has been helping the victims and their loved ones.
“We definitely will do our part to help the community but more importantly we want to help amplify the message that enough is enough. We cannot accept these incidents as a new reality.”
A Kings employee, Christiana Duarte, was one of 58 people killed in the Las Vegas mass shooting on Oct. 1, 2017. She had yet to start her marketing job with the organization.
WINNING WITH BROWN
Forward Dustin Brown missed the first 10 games of the season for the Kings with a broken finger. The Kings went 2-7-1. But they have won three of four since Brown returned, and he has five points (three goals and two assists).
Brown’s surge since his return is no surprise to Desjardins.
“Well, he’s always been a leader,” Desjardins said. “He’s the type of guy that, you know, he was playing really well a few years back. (Then) things didn’t go quite so good and he took it upon himself to kind of say, ‘Hey, I’ve gotta make myself better,’ and he has done that.
“Even all through that time he’s been a leader on this team and so when you have a guy like that come back to your lineup, it makes a difference. He’s just a heart-and-soul guy that always gives you what he has.”
Brown, 34, is in his 15th NHL season, all with the Kings. Beginning in 2007-08 – his fourth season – Brown had 60, 53, 56, 57 and 54 points. He had 29 points in the 48-game, strike-shortened 2012-13 campaign. But then he had just 27, 27, 28 and 36 points over the next four seasons, of which he played all but five regular-season games, before coming back this past season to score a career-high 61 points.
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