Sports

Kings' Doughty maintains a forward's mentality on the blue line

Kings defenseman Drew Doughty was a forward when he played in AAA midget hockey but moved to the blue line when his team had a shortage of defensemen. Since that day in 2002, Doughty has won two Olympic gold medals and is one victory away from winning his second Stanley Cup with the Kings. BRUCE BENNETT, GETTY IMAGES

STANLEY CUP FINAL

Kings lead series, 3-0

Game 1: Kings 3, Rangers 2 (OT)

Game 2: Kings 5, Rangers 4 (2OT)

Game 3: Kings 3, Rangers 0

Game 4: Wednesday at N.Y., 5 p.m., NBCSN

Game 5-x: Friday, at L.A., 5 p.m., NBC/4

Game 6-x: Monday, at N.Y., 5 p.m., NBC/4

Game 7-x: Wednesday, June 18, at L.A., 5 p.m., NBC/4

x-If necessary

NEW YORK – What a day in hockey history that was, when 12-year-old Drew Doughty changed positions.

It probably seemed like nothing at the time. As Doughty recalled recently, his AAA midget team ended up short on defensemen at the start of training camp in 2002, so the coach moved Doughty from forward to the blue line.

It worked out pretty well. Twelve years later, Doughty is one of the world’s premier defenseman, a two-time Olympic gold medalist who is one victory away from his second Stanley Cup with the Kings. It could come Wednesday , in Game 4 against the New York Rangers.

Doughty is averaging more than 28 minutes per game in these playoffs and is a strong candidate to be the first defenseman to be named playoff MVP since the Ducks’ Scott Niedermayer in 2007. Inside that defenseman’s body, though, is the heart of a natural forward, and sometimes those instincts come out.

``Forward is pretty cool,’’ Doughty said. ``I think I’d be able to be a forward still. Maybe not as good as I am on defense, but I think I could still do it.’’

It happened, most recently, twice in Game 1 against the Rangers, with mixed success. In the first period, Doughty tried to carry the puck into the offensive zone but had it stripped, and the Rangers scored a breakaway goal.

That memory faded in the second period, when Doughty took a pass at the top of the left faceoff circle, but from an awkward angle. In a seamless, phenomenal move, Doughty slid the puck between his legs onto his forehand, cut to the front of the net and beat goalie Henrik Lundqvist with a close-range wrist shot.

It was as skilled an offensive-zone play as any defenseman could hope to make, which makes sense given that Doughty grew up as a forward.

The move came when Brad Ostrom, coach of Doughty’s London Junior Knights team, moved Doughty to defense. Six years later, the Kings drafted Doughty with the No. 2 overall pick in the NHL draft.

``I wasn’t very keen on the move at first,’’ Doughty said, ``but (Ostrom) told me how he went through the same process with him. I thought maybe it would be a good idea, and obviously it worked out well.’’

How about playing in goal? Well, Doughty has done that, too. As a child, he was a soccer goalie – his sister is named after the English pro team Chelsea – but he gave up that sport at age 13 to focus on hockey.

Now, Doughty Fever is re-emerging among the American and Canadian national media, much of which is based on the East Coast and rarely gets a firsthand look at his skill level.

In 2010, Doughty finished third in voting for the Norris Trophy – awarded to the NHL’s top defenseman – but he hasn’t even been a finalist in the past four years, even though his overall game has improved significantly.

Doughty said winning the Norris Trophy is a goal, but isn’t ``the be-all, end-all’’ in terms of his hockey resume.

``It doesn’t bother me if people think that other players are better than me,’’ Doughty said. ``It’s just, whatever, to me. I can only control what I do here in L.A. At the end of the day, if I’m not considered a top defenseman ever in this league, and I win a bunch of Stanley Cups, I really don’t care.’’

Contact the writer: rhammond@ocregister.com

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