But through 13 games the Kings are 26th in five-on-five offense after a 3-0 loss to Edmonton on Thursday in which the team managed a season-low 19 shots on goal.
Outside of inserting Kevin Westgarth into tonight's lineup, coach Terry Murray strayed away from lineup changes and players said staying the course is wise.
“As long as we stick with the system, we’ve got some good players here that are going to make plays and we’re going to get some goals,” Richards said. “But just stick with the system, believe in it, trust in it, and eventually it’s going to come.”
Penner disappointing: Los Angeles Kings left wing Dustin Penner can take his share of the blame for the lack of the team’s offense. He has only one point this season and has been demoted to the third line.
Coach Terry Murray said he put Penner there with the idea of having three scoring lines, but he also concurred that Penner might not get enough offensive opportunities playing third-line minutes.
“I’m going to take a look at it,” Murray said. “Is it a concern a little bit? I really believe Penner is a guy that needs to get the puck at the right place at the right time, and players like Kopi (Anze Kopitar) and (Mike) Richards are certainly guys that can give it to him in the right situations.”
SAN JOSE – Shortly after falling behind by two goals in the first period Thursday night against Pittsburgh, Sharks coach Todd McLellan began juggling his lines, and those changes helped spark a 4-3 shootout win.
McLellan liked what he saw from his new-look lines against Pittsburgh, and he said “there’s a good chance” he’ll open with them Saturday night against Nashville.
“We’re 11 games into the season. You can get a little bit stale,” McLellan said of the changes. “And we weren’t getting a lot from our third and fourth lines, anyhow. Our other two lines for the most part carried the team on the road trip, but they started to sputter at the end, too. Maybe a fresh look -- it’s time.”
With these changes, McLellan spread the offensive firepower more evenly throughout his top three lines. By moving Marleau to the second line, he believes he created a matchup problem for Nashville, which features one of the league’s top defensive pairs in Shea Weber and Ryan Suter.
“They’ll try to match up against one of our big centermen, I’m assuming [Thornton], so that will allow another big body in [Marleau] to play against other pairs. When you put [Marleau] and [Clowe] together, they’re two big men. If they’re playing well, they’re a load to handle down low.”
Havlat said he skated on the same line at times with Handzus five years ago for the Blackhawks.
“He’s very smart with the puck, with the positioning,” Havlat said. “He’s a very good passer and play-maker. He can give you the puck pretty quick. He’s great at both ends, offensively and defensively.”
Couture said the moves make sense after the way the Sharks bounced back against Pittsburgh.
“We obviously knew we didn’t play well in the first period the other night,” Clowe said. “He changes things up and it seemed to turn us around a little bit. We played better after that. I think that’s the seasoning behind it. … Whoever I get to play with I’m glad to. I’ve gone from two good players to two good players. Hopefully I can get something going tonight.”
First-line wing Joe Pavelski is still battling a flu bug, but he was on the ice for Saturday morning’s skate and said he will play against Nashville. Pavelski, who did not practice on Friday, said he felt “better” Saturday.
“It’s something you have to deal with.”
Pavelski said he was dealing with the flu “a little bit” Thursday night against Pittsburgh but didn’t use it as an excuse for going without a point and posting a minus-2.
“I’ve got to be better than I was then,” he said. “First period was not good by any means. We need better starts there. It was good to see guys battle back, not totally waste the whole night.”
GLENDALE, Ariz. – After being shut out for the second time in seven home games on Thursday night, the Phoenix Coyotes will be looking for an infusion of offense Saturday when they take on one of the NHL’s hottest teams in the Edmonton Oilers.
It won't hurt to have their No. 1 goalie in the lineup either. Mike Smith is 4-0-1 and has allowed only 12 goals, and he will be back between the pipes after sitting out Thursday because the team was playing on back-to-back nights. Jason LaBarbera played well, but couldn't do everything in a 2-0 loss to Pekka Rinne and the Nashville Predators. The Coyotes are now just 3-3-1 at home this season, where they have played seven of their first 12 games and are in the midst of another four-contest homestand.
The Edmonton Oilers are on a six-game winning streak and Nikolai Khabibulin, a Scottsdale resident and the Coyotes goalie for the first four years the team was in Phoenix, is coming off a shutout winThursday in Los Angeles. He will sit out tonight, however, as Edmonton goes with Devan Dubnyk.
The Coyotes had their three-game winning streak smothered by Rinne and the Predators and there will be at least one shake-up to the forwards when Cal O’Reilly, obtained from Nashville a week ago but battling a groin injury, will make his Phoenix debut. To make room for O’Reilly on the active roster, the Coyotes shipped center Andy Miele – who was scoreless but showed promise in a five-game stint with the team – back to Portland of the American Hockey League.
Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said center Martin Hanzal, who missed the loss to the Predators with a lowe- body injury suffered late in Wednesday’s win at Colorado, will be a game-time decision. But the Coyotes have five days off before they play again after tonight and the team could give the valuable Hanzal the full five days to recover.
Kyle Chipchura, who was brought up from Portland on Thursday and played against Nashville, would be the fourth center for Phoenix tonight.
Edmonton, a team picked by many to be among the worst in the League, is tied for second in the Western Conference with an 8-2-2 record and leads the League in goals against with 18 in their first 12 games. Khabibulin has been a big part of that, but the Oilers also lead the League in blocked shots and Ladislav Smid leads all individuals with 45.
SAN JOSE –Antti Niemi will be back in goal Saturday night for the Sharks against Nashville, two days after giving up two goals in the first two minutes and four seconds against Pittsburgh and getting pulled for backup Thomas Greiss.
Sharks coach Todd McLellan said the decision to start Niemi was an “easy” one for him to make, even though Greiss gave up just one goal and stopped 29 of 30 shots in a 4-3 shootout win.
“He’s going to be our goaltender when it counts,” McLellan said Saturday of Niemi after the Sharks’ morning skate at HP Pavilion. “He hasn’t had a lot of time throughout training camp and he needs to play some games. So it’s pretty simple. With that being said, Thomas played extremely well. We all appreciate his effort and he’ll get many more opportunities to play this year, but tonight it’s about [Niemi] getting his game back.”
Niemi, who faced just six shots Thursday, said he’s ready to put the game behind him.
“I think just get right back at it. Hopefully get some saves today early on. For my part, I want to get past that game as fast as possible,” Niemi said.
McLellan said he expects Niemi to bounce back and have a solid game.
“The other night I think there was a real focus on us pulling [Niemi], but if we could have pulled 18 other guys and replaced them, we would have done that, too,” McLellan said. “It just happens to be that position where a goaltender gets yanked and he doesn’t go back in. we expect him to be sharp along with the other 18 guys that are dressed.”
Tim Thomas has joined the legions of moustaches in November.
Actually Thomas has long had a somewhat famous soup strainer of his own. But now his goaltending mask does too, as the Boston Bruins' star unveiled a new moustache-themed lid prior to Saturday's game in Toronto, and plans to raffle it off for charity later.
The campaign, which launched Saturday through a partnership with InGoal Magazine and The Tim Thomas Foundation, is designed to raise money and to benefit cancer awareness. Raffle tickets will be sold throughout the month, and one lucky winner will be chosen Dec. 16 to take three friends to a Bruins game, meet Thomas and go home with his game-worn Moustache Mask.
As Thomas points out, the mission of his foundation is to "support the underdog" whether the underdog position was developed due to lack of opportunity, lack of education, illness or a disaster.
"I would like to help remove some of the barriers to open opportunities for full, rewarding successful lives,” Thomas said. “The barrier may be a lack of a hot meal, lack of specialized training, a disease or a tragic event. My goals include the support of disease research and awareness, disaster relief efforts for people in our communities, food banks similar to the ones I worked at when I was a kid, or educational programs that provide future opportunities. Our November fundraiser is to benefit Prostate Cancer and we hope to help eliminate barriers associated with the cancer disease. This cause is close to my heart and we are offering a raffle for an incredible prize."
This mask features an image of Lord Horatio Kitchener made famous on a recruiting poster in England during World War I, as well as a new, moustachioed take on the "Beware the Bear" logo that Thomas usually features on the backplate of his everyday mask, altered now to "Beware of the Stache."
For more information, please visit http://ingoalmag.com/masks/moustache-mask/
The defense pairs were jumbled this morning as James Wisniewski is battling a flu bug and was sent back to the hotel not long after arriving at the rink. Coach Scott Arniel said he's hopeful Wisniewski can play tonight, but won't know until game time.
Here's what the Jackets' lineup could look like tonight against the Flyers:
PHILADELPHIA -- Ryan Johansen has spent almost his entire hockey life in the middle of the ice. But it's a move to the wing that earned him a permanent spot in the NHL.
The fourth pick of the 2010 NHL Draft as a center, Johansen started this season in the middle, but since his move to the wing, his play has improved dramatically.
"We watched him play a few games, some exhibition games, in the middle and felt at this time it's too big a responsibility," said Blue Jackets coach Scott Arniel. "We didn't get to see his offense, we didn't get to see him play with the puck like we know he can. He was really trying hard to learn the game and not make mistakes defensively that it took away from the offensive side. We threw him on the wing and we think he's blossomed over there e offensively. We started to see what he can do."
After totaling just 1 assist in his first five games, Johansen has 3 goals and an assist in his last five. In the Jackets' two wins this season, Johansen has the game-winning goal.
"To play in the NHL on the wing is pretty different," Johansen told NHL.com. "I just had to learn a couple new things quickly. It wasn't too hard to adjust. Feel pretty comfortable there now. I feel confident with the puck when it comes around the boards or if I receive it on the half wall. I'm not worried about it."
It's a big change from last season for Johansen, who admitted to being overwhelmed by his surroundings when he got to training camp last year.
"When I was first drafted and moving on to my first camp, it was kind … I was in shock the whole time," he said. "I ended up playing against (Sidney) Crosby and (Alex) Ovechkin in exhibition games and my eyes were wide open the whole time. I was having so much fun being around."
He was returned to his junior team, the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League, and had an outstanding season -- 40 goals in 63 games -- and went back to Columbus this summer with a new mindset.
"This year I felt I had a really strong chance of making the team," he said. "I'm just focused on winning more than who I was playing against."
His teammates have started to take notice of how the 6-foot-3, 203-pound forward is beginning to blossom.
"He's getting better every day," R.J. Umberger told NHL.com. "He's starting to learn he's got a lot of size and he can use it. He's stronger than he thinks and he's moving his feet more and creating a lot of things below the goal line with his size.
"The challenge for him is just learning to compete every night. It's a hard league. For him, he knows he can play here and contribute."
"Every day it seems like I'm learning new things being up here," said Johansen. "For myself, I'm just taking everything in right now, soaking it all up. It's been a tremendous experience so far. Hopefully we can start winning some more games here."
On a personal note, it was the first time I've seen Johansen since he was drafted in Los Angeles. He and his Portland teammate, Islanders forward Nino Niederreiter, were part of one of my favorite videos since I've been with the NHL. It's worth watching to get some nice insight into two young men with wonderful personalities.
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
Jeff Carter made his return to Philadelphia today, but not in the way the All-Star center would have liked it.
Carter has missed the last eight games with a broken right foot, and has yet to resume skating.
Broken feet are nothing new to Carter -- he broke both feet during the Flyers' run to the 2010 Stanley Cup Final -- and this time, he said he's being smart about allowing this injury to heal fully rather than hurry his return just to play against his former team.
"I wasn't going to rush back just to get into this game," he said. "I have to worry about getting healthy, that's the first thing."
Carter said it was an emotional experience walking into the Wells Fargo Center this morning. Prior to the June trade that sent him to the Blue Jackets, it was his only NHL home.
"It's a little weird being on the other side now," he said. "It's different. It's actually first time I've ever been down here (visiting locker room). It's a big change, but it is what it is."
Carter said one of the things he misses most about Philadelphia are the fans.
"I had six great years here," he said. "I enjoyed coming to the rink and playing in front of the fans every night. Everybody says it's one of the best places to play, and the fans are a huge part of that. It makes it a lot easier for guys to go on the ice and play good hockey when you have fans like that behind you."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK