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05-16-2013, 11:37 PM
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Andrew Knoll
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NYT: Doughty and Couture: Friends Talk Stardom, Rivalry

Hello damas y caballeros, sorry for not posting this sooner but here is a feature on Doughty and Couture that I hope you find a solid read. As always, your readership is very much appreciated!

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/16/sp...tml?ref=hockey

Childhood Friends Battle in Western Conference Playoffs
By ANDREW KNOLL
LOS ANGELES — There are many intense rivalries in the Stanley Cup playoffs, but few have a competition that dates back to puberty, PlayStation and pond hockey.

Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty and San Jose Sharks forward Logan Couture have just that type of familiarity. They grew up minutes apart in London, Ontario, first competing against one another for a season and then playing together for several more.

As they face off in the Western Conference semifinals, Couture, 24, and Doughty, 23, have donned the masks of adversaries, cutting off communication. Yet after the season, they will be palling around back in London.

“We hang out by the pool, play some tennis, play some basketball and just be kids,” Couture said. “Two summers ago — I don’t know if the Kings want to know this — but we were short a goalie and he threw the pads on and played goal. He was actually a pretty good goalie, he stopped me a couple times. He brings that up often.”

Both players were multisport stars as children, Couture excelling in baseball while Doughty dominated the local soccer scene. Faced with a decision to specialize, they opted for hockey, becoming elite players in the Ontario Hockey League and top draft picks in the N.H.L.

Doughty lived up to his status as the No. 2 overall pick in 2008, earning an Olympic gold medal and a Norris Trophy nomination at age 20, then becoming a Stanley Cup champion at 22. Couture took a slightly more measured route to the N.H.L., blossoming into a Calder Trophy candidate in 2011 and the Sharks’ leading goal scorer in each of the past two seasons.

Sharks center Scott Gomez, who signed with the team in January after spending his entire career in the Eastern Conference with the Devils, the Rangers and the Montreal Canadiens, said he had gained a deeper appreciation for both players in short order.

“Doughty can definitely control a game,” Gomez said. “He’s kind of like Scott Niedermayer. He can be out there the whole game, he can play in all situations and he’s fun to watch.”

Gomez spoke even more highly of his teammate Couture, who led the Sharks in scoring (8) and power-play points (6) in their first-round sweep of the Vancouver Canucks.

“I think Logan’s set that standard where he’s probably the best or top three in the league as the young guys go,” Gomez said. “If this guy’s playing in the East somewhere, he’s the league face. He’s that good. Not only offensively, he sacrifices his body, too.”

Doughty has yet to best his career highs of 16 goals, 43 assists, 59 points and a plus-20 rating he set in 2010, but his teammates said, to a man, that his defensive game, conditioning, consistency and leadership have improved with each season.

That commitment to play in his own zone was on full display in Game 1 Tuesday night, which the Kings won, 2-0, despite being outshot, 35-20.

Still, it has been Doughty’s elusiveness, explosiveness, skill and desire to play with elevated stakes that have continued to make him an elite defenseman.

“He’s always been like that, a big-game player,” Couture said. “There’s not many players who can do what Drew does with the puck. He’s been that way since we were 13 years old and that hasn’t changed.”

Doughty joined the players in both locker rooms who lauded Couture’s three-zone game, dynamism, attention to detail and outstanding contribution to a team with a veteran core.

“He’s always been that player; I’ve always known him to be a great defensive player and obviously offensively he’s great, too,” said Doughty, noting that Couture has played in the shadow of his teammates Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau early in his career.

Doughty added: “Now that they’ve given him that opportunity, he’s shining with it. In this series, he’s one of their keys that we have circled on the board to pay special attention to. We have to shut him down.”

The two friends next meet Thursday night in Los Angeles. They have faced each other before in the postseason, with Couture’s Sharks taking a 2011 first-round series from Doughty’s Kings in six games. Doughty had a glorious 2012, helping lead Los Angeles to the franchise’s first Stanley Cup.

“When they first won, I was excited that Drew won the Stanley Cup,” Couture said. “I was watching it with a bunch of our buddies and we were all happy for him. Then 10 minutes passed and I was jealous; I wanted it to be me. That’s a natural reaction when you’re a player in this league; it makes you work that much harder. We want to do it this year.”

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