The Kevin Harvick-Jeff Carter bond

LOS ANGELES -- If there's one aspect of the NHL that Kevin Harvick would like to see in NASCAR, it's the fisticuffs.

"I think that's pretty cool," he said. "When you've got a problem with somebody, you just settle it right there."

Good chance Harvick and Kyle Busch would be regular visitors to the penalty box.

Harvick, in town to defend his Auto Club 400 title Sunday in Fontana, took in a Kings game Thursday night at Staples Center, partly to soothe his craving for live NHL action and primarily to visit his good friend Jeff Carter, who was traded to the Kings from the Columbus Blue Jackets late last month.

Harvick witnessed a playoff-type game; the Kings and Blues remained scoreless through regulation and overtime before Carter scored one of the Kings' two shootout goals to lift them to a 1-0 victory against the No. 1 team in the league. The win put the Kings in first place in the Pacific Division.

Harvick and Carter met about six years ago at Richmond International Raceway in Virginia. At the time, Carter played for the Philadelphia Flyers. He invited Harvick and his wife, DeLana, to a hockey game. They showed up, got hooked and have been huge NHL fans ever since, especially when the game involves the Flyers. Two years ago, they attended seven playoff games during Philadelphia's run to the Stanley Cup finals.

"I never really watched hockey growing up as a kid, but since I met Jeff and got involved with watching the sport, it's very intense," said Harvick, who grew up in Bakersfield, about a 100 miles north of L.A. "Watching it in person is a lot better than watching it on TV."

And that doesn't mean sitting in the comforts of a luxury box. Harvick prefers getting as close to the action as possible.

"Whether it's a hockey game or a race or whatever it is, there's something about taking the action in live," he said. "Being able to be in with the fans and being close to the action is a lot more fun."

So does this mean Harvick is ready to take some laps on the Kings' bandwagon?

"Absolutely," said the 2007 Daytona 500 champion. "Jeff Carter is the reason we got into hockey … Now he's a King."