EL SEGUNDO -- While the Kings are still waiting on Drew Doughty to come to an agreement on a new contract, another member of the team didn't hesitate to sign his name on the dotted line.
Kevin Westgarth, a 6-foot-4, 228-pound forward who’s known better as the team's resident enforcer, signed a two-year extension Monday, a deal that will pay him $700,000 in 2012-13 and $750,000 the following season, a nice raise from the $525,000 he’ll earn this year.
“It’s great to have a little more stability,” he said following his morning practice session Tuesday. “I really want to be here and I’m glad they want to keep me around for a couple more years.”
It has been a difficult last few months for NHL players who have a similar job description as Westgarth. Three players who were more feared for their fists than their scoring ability died during the offseason, two by reported suicides and the other from an overdose.
The deaths prompted some hockey writers to opine that it might be best to phase out fighting from the NHL, a move that would put the careers of players like Westgarth in jeopardy.
Westgarth said it’s too early to make any assumptions about the the recent deaths.
“Jumping to conclusions like that rarely pays any dividends,” he said.
To his credit, Westgarth is doing his best to become more well-rounded as a hockey player. He’s usually the first one on the ice for practice and one of the last to leave, consistently putting in extra time on his skating, puck-handling and shooting. He has yet to score a goal in 65 NHL games, but Westgarth says he believes it's only a matter of time.
“I feel I can give a lot more than just the enforcer role and I’m looking to do that,” he said. “I know which side my bread is buttered on, but everyday I’m looking to get better.”
Westgarth is scheduled to participate in Wednesday night’s scrimmage against the Coyotes in Phoenix, while another group will play the Coyotes at Staples Center. Westgarth has been practicing on a line with Richard Clune, another player known for his willingness to drop the gloves, and Justin Azevedo.
The Coyotes have their own tough guys on the bench, most notably Paul Bissonnette, better known as “BizNasty.”
“If we’re causing some havoc and they want to do something about it, we’re more than willing to respond,” Westgarth said.
Kopitar skating with Penner, Williams
Anze Kopitar is also slated to play in Phoenix, his first action since injuring his right ankle in late March. He has been practicing on the No. 1 line with Dustin Penner and Justin Williams.
Kopitar played with a variety of linemates last season, particularly on his left side, and he’s looking forward to some stability.
“Hopefully we’ll stay together for a longer period of time and I won’t have to deal with all the line changes,” he said. “But with [coach] Terry [Murray} you never know.”
Lineups for Wednesday's scrimmages vs. Coyotes
At Staples Center:
Forwards: Mike Richards, Kyle Clifford, Scott Parse, Dustin Brown, Jarret Stoll, Trent Hunter, Andrei Loktionov, David Meckler, Marc-Andre Cliche, Jordan Nolan, Ray Kaunisto.
Defenseman: Jack Johnson, Jake Muzzin, Rob Scuderi, Thomas Hickey, Davis Drewiske, Viatcheslav Voynov.
Goalies: Martin Jones, Jonathan Quick.
Forwards: Anze Kopitar, Justin Williams, Brad Richardson, Ethan Moreau, Kevin Westgarth, Trevor Lewis, Dustin Penner, Brandon Kozun, Richard Clune, Justin Azevedo, Tyler Toffoli, Dwight King.
Defensemen: Matt Greene, Alec Martinez, Willie Mitchell, Patrick Mullen, Andrew Campbell, David Kolomatis.
Goalies: Jeff Zatkoff, Jonathan Bernier.
Note: Simon Gagne will not play due to illness.