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Avoiding The Trap

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
COLUMBUS -- Call it superstition, intuition or just plain old common sense, but Terry Murray feels he has a good thing going, and isn't going to mess with it.

Murray seemed to have been mulling what to do about his goalie situation this week, with the Kings facing back-to-back games against Columbus (on Wednesday) and the New York Rangers (on Thursday), but Jonathan Quick, coming off a 40-save shutout of the Philadelphia Flyers, will get the start against the Blue Jackets.

The Kings are not expected to make any other lineup changes, meaning Marco Sturm will remain out, and Murray did not commit to a starter in goal for Thursday's game.

Jonathan Quick and Drew Doughty celebrate Sunday's win over Philadelphia.  There will be zero lineup changes for tomorrow's game in Colubus. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
``I can't change the lineup, based on what we've seen in the last couple games,'' Murray said. The team has played very hard, with great spirit on the bench and in the locker room. Coming away with four points in buildings like that is a real good team effort. So I'm not going to mess with the chemistry on that one.''

That means Sturm will remain on injured reserve, per Murray's desire to see more from Sturm in practice, and Davis Drewiske, Peter Harrold and Kevin Westgarth will remain as healthy scratches.

The Kings are on quite a roll, having allowed three or fewer goals in 15 consecutive games, plus two or fewer goals in seven of their last eight and 11 of their last 13.

Quick and fellow goalie Jonathan Bernier, plus an outstanding penalty-kill effort, have been big factors in that defensive success, but Murray gave wide-ranging praise to his players for their overall defensive attitude of late.

``I think that just reinforces the checking part of the game,'' Murray said. ``I think that's what is so critical for us. Even going through the difficult time that we had at home, without being able to find a way to win games, the focus went back to playing without the puck, doing the right stuff on the checking part of it, tightening things up.

``We made a couple changes on play through the neutral zone, on the forecheck, the neutral-zone forecheck. That allows us to recover some pucks a little bit easier, when they are dumped in, and it allows you to create some turnovers in the middle of the ice and just get a transition going. That's a group effort. That's goaltending and out. Everybody is doing a great job, and it's a reflection of the kind of work ethic that the team is bringing right now.''

There hasn't been a power-play goal scored in a Kings game for more than 10 days.

In their last three games, the Kings have gone 0-for-6 on the power play and 10-for-10 on the penalty kill. Given that the Kings are 2-0-1 in those three games, and outscored their opponents 6-2 in even-strength, regulation situations, there's no cause for panic, but the question seemed interesting: which statistic is more notable?

Can the Kings get by without a dynamic power play, assuming the penalty kill holds up?

``I think PK has been really good for us, throughout the whole season,'' Kings center Anze Kopitar said, ``and the power play has not been good for us, pretty much the whole year. I don't know which one is more significant.

``I guess, in the last couple games. it didn't matter as much about the power play, because we shut them down with the PK, but at the end of the day, we have to get our PP going. Ultimately, the PP is going to win us games too, and those are the close games. We got away with one, probably, in Philly, but our power play definitely has to be better for us.''

After a bit of a midseason dip, the Kings are back up to eighth in the NHL in penalty-kill efficiency, at 84.0 percent.

After three intense, high-profile games against Pittsburgh, Washington and Philadelphia, the Kings have had two days off in Columbus and now prepare to face a Blue Jackets team that sits in 12th place in the Western Conference.

The Blue Jackets, though, have won five of their last six games and have allowed a total of only nine goals in those six games, so Murray was asked whether he was worried about any letdown from his team heading into Wednesday's game.

``Yeah, sure you worry about it, absolutely,'' Murray said. ``You get a couple days off between games, and I don't like that when you're on the road. I'd rather play every second day. But that's the way things go, and you've got to make sure that you're bringing your best effort again. That's the requirements that we have to bring focus to in our meetings, and the leadership group, you rely heavily on those guys in the locker room to say and do the right things to get ready for the start of the game.

``We're concerned, but we all know what's on the line right now, what's at stake. Every point is so critical, in the position that we're in right now. We're (four) points out of being first in our division, for crying out loud, so it's so tight. I hope that there is no letup, and I don't expect there to be. I think our locker room is playing with great spirit and energy and enthusiasm, and we just have to keep carrying through with it.''

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