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Quartet of youngsters help spark Kings to fast start

By in Press Enterprise on November 8, 2017

By Eric Stephens

ANAHEIM — Adrian Kempe was playing in the American Hockey League at this time a year ago. So were Mike Amadio and Kurtis MacDermid. Alex Iafallo wasn’t even a pro, playing his senior season at Minnesota-Duluth.

The Kings have not only worked the four into their lineup but seen them make notable contributions to their eye-opening 10-2-2 start heading into their game Tuesday night against the Ducks at Honda Center.

A franchise that was in need of new blood is getting quite the transfusion. Kempe’s six goals and 10 points in 14 games – much of it coming with Jeff Carter sidelined – is eye-catching but Iafallo scored his first goal Saturday and has fit in nicely on a line with Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown.

Amadio also got his first NHL strike last week, while MacDermid and fellow rookie Oscar Fantenberg have been part of the third-pairing mix in the Kings’ defense corps.

“The injuries have really forced some of those young guys into more important minutes,” Kings coach John Stevens said. “Carter went down and Kempe created a lot more opportunity. I think with any young player, you want to see him take advantage of those opportunities.

“We felt at the time it’s next man up. There’s other guys who were waiting to play more, they wanted to play more. And we thought guys really take advantage of those opportunities.”

A winning atmosphere has certainly eased the transition of more youth into the lineup. Stevens said success has bred confidence but feels their jobs have been made easier by their longtime stalwarts – Kopitar, Brown, Drew Doughty, etc. – playing well in their own right.

“Our veteran group has done a really good job around those younger players in terms of insulating them with support,” Stevens said.

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