LOS ANGELES – If there’s one thing Jordan Nolan learned through the years, it’s that he can’t slack off when his dad is around. Working hard means the world to Ted Nolan, who believes an honest effort can lead to great things.
Jordan Nolan is living proof.
The 25-year-old forward has two championship rings with the Los Angeles Kings. Though not the most talented player on the Stanley Cup-winning roster, Nolan gets by with size and a determined work ethic – two things he got from his dad.
“He’s pretty honest,” Jordan Nolan said Thursday. “He’s pretty black and white, but he’s also always pushing me to get better and always there to support me if I have something to talk about. If I’m not working hard, that’s his main thing. He’ll let me know.”
Ted Nolan had a chance to gauge Jordan’s effort from close range Thursday. The Sabres visited the Kings, and it was the first time the family collided in the NHL.
“I’ve been thinking about that for a while,” the Sabres’ coach said before the game. “Not too often a father gets to coach against his son at this level.”
“We never expected this to happen, but I think lots of family members will be watching and it will be a special night for our family,” Jordan Nolan said. “I’m definitely excited about tonight and playing in front of my dad. I always seem to work a little harder when he’s in the building.”
The 6-foot-3, 221-pound forward skates on the fourth line for the Kings. He entered with no points, eight hits and three blocked shots while averaging 9:37 per night. He wanted to make the most of his minutes against his dad.
“It’s his dream to coach and mine to play,” Jordan said. “He knows a lot about the game. I’m always trying to impress him, I’d say, and I’m always looking for advice. Whenever he’s in the building, I think I push a little harder because I want to make him proud and show him what I’ve got.”
The family had a chance to get together twice before meeting on the ice. They met for dinner Tuesday, and Jordan drove to Anaheim to watch Buffalo’s 4-1 loss Wednesday night.
Ted Nolan was a regular in L.A. after Jordan debuted in 2011-12, and the coach watched with his wife, Sandra, as the Kings won the Cup in June.
“To have them come to L.A. whenever I wanted and whenever they wanted was definitely nice,” Jordan said, “but he has a job to do now.”
Nikita Zadorov was probably the most talked-about eighth defenseman in the NHL. He moved up to seventh against the Kings and made his season debut.
The Sabres kept the 19-year-old Zadorov around rather than return him to his junior team, but he was a healthy scratch during the first seven games.
“He’s been working pretty hard here lately,” Nolan said. “I never met a kid like him. He asks me every day, ‘Am I in, coach? Am I in, coach?’ You can tell he’s a young, eager player.”
The Sabres dressed seven blue-liners and 11 forwards, with Sam Reinhart taking a seat. Reinhart skated 9:51 and took a hooking penalty Wednesday in Anaheim after being scratched during the previous game. He’ll return Saturday in San Jose when the Sabres close their three-game California trip.
“Going back-to-back against some pretty big teams, give him a rest and put him back in against San Jose,” Nolan said.
Robyn Regehr had to decide multiple times whether he should waive his no-trade clause. He did it twice, and both times the deciding factor was whether he could win a Stanley Cup.
It didn’t happen the first time, as the Sabres slid from the ranks of Cup hopefuls after his arrival from Calgary. He accepted a move from Buffalo to Los Angeles in 2013, and the defenseman hit the jackpot when the Kings won the championship in June.
“After your career’s done and you look back on it, that’s the thing you never forget,” Regehr said. “I’m really glad I had a chance to be part of one. Now the motivation is to try to do it again. It’s extremely difficult, but we have the majority of the same guys back, so we’ve got a very good opportunity.”