Artful dodger Drew Doughty dancing around Ducks


Drew Doughty's been at his best in this spring's NHL playoffs for the L.A. Kings.

Drew Doughty's been at his best in this spring's NHL playoffs for the L.A. Kings.

Photograph by: Ezra Shaw, Getty Images

More on This Story


EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — There were strong opinions on both sides the night Boston bruiser Shawn Thornton ran at Montreal star P.K. Subban in Game 2 of the East semifinal, and the Habs defenceman turned away from the hit.

Thornton banged his knee into Subban's backside, went slamming into the boards over top of his intended victim, collapsed to the ice in pain, and … presto! Instant debate.

In the black-and-gold corner: Thornton, the Bruins, Boston fans, Don Cherry. Cowardly, they said. Subban ducked. He should have taken the hit like a man.

In the bleu-blanc-rouge corner: normal people. Where does it say you're supposed to volunteer to get run over by a train if you can see it coming?

Well, Drew Doughty knows which side he's on.

"I'm the first to dodge hits," the Los Angeles Kings' most indispensable skater said Wednesday, when the topic of being targeted by the opposition was raised.

"I'm not going to take a hit for no reason. If it's taking a hit to make a play, I'm going to do that, but if I can make the play and then dodge the hit, I'm going to do it every time. I really don't care what anyone says about that."

It's no news to the 24-year-old defenceman that the Anaheim Ducks, who trail their playoff series 2-0 with Game 3 Thursday night at Staples Center, figure their best chance of reversing the tide is to keep pounding away at Doughty, and Anze Kopitar and Jonathan Quick, in the belief that the punishment will eventually take its toll.

For that reason alone, the extra day off between games was especially welcome for the Kings, whose defensive corps is down a couple of bodies, with veterans Willie Mitchell and Robyn Regehr both out. Doughty has played just a hair under 60 minutes of the first two games.

And he's loving it.

"I think everyone in the playoffs is going to be a little (sore) ... everyone's going to be icing after the games, because it is playoff hockey," Doughty said. "I know teams are going to target me and target other guys.

"If anything, that makes you hungrier. It makes you want to work harder to avoid those hits and make a difference. When they're targeting you and you're still being successful, that's the most frustrating thing for them."

Kings coach Darryl Sutter isn't even conceding that the stud of his defence is being singled out for special treatment.

"Every game he plays he gets extra attention, but I don't think anyone is going out of their way to hit Drew Doughty," Sutter said. "It's not really that ... (the Ducks) are a big, physical team. I think the reason Drew gets touched more than the other guys is because he plays half the game.

"Quite honestly, we need some of our other defencemen to get touched that much."

But that's not how it works. Sutter doles out ice time on a merit basis, and no one else has Doughty's kind of merit. He was an absolute star for Team Canada as a 20-year-old at the Vancouver Olympics and was even better in Sochi in February, and he is both the quarterback of the Kings' offence and their best defender.

He has not even been a finalist for the Norris Trophy since his sophomore season, 2009-10, but Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau's assertion that Doughty is "one of the best in the world, if not the best defenceman in the world,” isn't far from the truth.

It just happens to be a crowded podium at the moment.

But Doughty knows he's a much more complete player at 24 than he was at 20.

"(Vancouver) was kind of the first big thing in my NHL career," he said. "Even though I was named to (the Olympic team), I still didn't feel like I really belonged. I was just looking up to all these guys not too long ago. It was kind of a weird feeling. I started playing a lot more in those Olympics and I felt better about myself and the year kind of took off from there. I was up for the Norris, then I obviously felt I belonged after that.

"Without a doubt, I'm 10 times the player I was. That year I had my (highest) point total but still I'm way better offensively than I was back then. Our team wasn't as good, but we scored more goals and our power play was better. That was the reason I got more points. I feel I've improved as a player. I've been a better leader for the team. I make a difference in every game."

And, yes, he's a confident lad.

Kings forward Jarret Stoll says the big-name players always know they're on the other team's hit list.

"That's the way the game is. We want to target their best players, too," Stoll said. "If their big players are the best players in the series, most likely they win. If Drew Doughty and Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter and Marian Gaborik are the best players in the series, we're probably going to win.

"We expect them to go after Drew and Anze. They're used to that. They've played in the Olympics, they've played in big games. Those guys on the other side have, too. They know it's coming."

Also coming, in all probability: another tight hockey game. Four of their five regular-season meetings were decided by one goal, Game 1 went into overtime, and Game 2 was 2-1 with an empty-netter thrown in at the end.

The series could be anything right now, even 2-0 the other way, so the Kings say they're taking nothing for granted. Having just come back from 0-3 down to beat San Jose, they ought to know no lead is safe.

"We can't let them back in the series. They're going to be looking for a win to start feeling better about themselves, and we need to put that away," said Doughty.

"We know how quickly a series can change. It can be one moment. It can be a fight, or just a big goal. We have to keep our foot on the gas pedal."

And their heads on a swivel, in case the train's coming. Either that, or be the train.

Drew Doughty's been at his best in this spring's NHL playoffs for the L.A. Kings.

Drew Doughty's been at his best in this spring's NHL playoffs for the L.A. Kings.

Photograph by: Ezra Shaw, Getty Images

We encourage all readers to share their views on our articles and blog posts. We are committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion, so we ask you to avoid personal attacks, and please keep your comments relevant and respectful. If you encounter a comment that is abusive, click the "X" in the upper right corner of the comment box to report spam or abuse. We are using Facebook commenting. Visit our FAQ page for more information.
Your voice