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Consolidating The Power Play Lines

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
EDMONTON -- The Kings hope that consolidation can help their struggling power play.

Rather than spread out their best power-play performers over two units, the Kings will go all-in tonight when they play the Edmonton Oilers. Coach Terry Murray will take his best five, put them on the ice together and let them play as long as possible.

That means a blue-line pair of Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson, with Anze Kopitar, Michal Handzus and Ryan Smyth playing up front. That quintet has combined for 19 of the Kings' 31 power-play goals this season. Smyth leads the way with eight goals.

Doughty and Johnson are considered the Kings' two best power-play ``quarterbacks,'' but for most of this season they have been on separate units.

During the Kings' second power play on Tuesday night, coach Terry Murray put Doughty and Johnson together, and while the Kings didn't score, the puck movement seemed to be much improved, as was the pressure on Minnesota goalie Niklas Backstrom.

With the Kings stuck in a massive power-play rut -- they're 1-for-28 in their last 10 games -- Murray said it's time to try something new, and in this case it means simplifying things and putting his best power-play performers on the ice together.

``Sometimes, in my experience, you want to have two good power-play groups,'' Murray said, ``but when something is not clicking on either one of them, then it's time to re-address it and maybe go with the best you can put together on one group and play them as much as they can handle. Then you come back with the second group.

``That's what we're going to try here tonight. Kind of put the top guys together, and hopefully we can get the result. Hopefully we can get a few power plays and get something happening on it.''

Based on recent games, the Kings are likely to go with a second power-play unit of Jarret Stoll, Alec Martinez, Dustin Brown, Justin Williams and Andrei Loktionov.


As planned, the Kings will go back to No. 1 goalie Jonathan Quick tonight, after Jonathan Bernier recorded a shutout in Minnesota but suffered the 1-0 shootout loss.

Murray said he will consider a change up front. Kevin Westgarth, a healthy scratch from the previous four games, will skate in warmups, but Murray said he had not yet decided whether to play Westgarth and hadn't decided what his fourth line might look like.


The Kings had been 5-0 in shootouts this season before Tuesday's loss, and while Backstrom was outstanding, Murray acknowledged that, going forward, he might consider making changes to his shootout lineup.

Backstrom made saves on Kopitar, Johnson and Brown, and that trio is a combined 4-for-16 on shootout attempts this season. Murray said he might lean toward Stoll, who is 3-for-4 this season, and/or Handzus, who is 2-for-3 this season, in future attempts.

``I consider it every time we do a shootout,'' Murray said, ``but I end up coming back to what we agree, what we feel, is our best three guys in those looks. Last night, Backstrom poke-checked on all three shooters, and very successfully on Kopi. He does the same on Jack and misses, and normally when the goaltender poke-checks and misses, you know you can chalk it up on the board, but he makes an incredible stop.

``But it's a good question, a good point. I do consider it, and it maybe is coming to that time where you just need to shake the hat up a little bit and get a different order out of your group. We do talk about it, and I did consider it last night, changing it up, and maybe I should have.''


In every game, the Kings have a goal of getting 65 pucks toward the net, figuring that, on average, that number will give them the necessary number of scoring chances.

Well, the Kings met that standard Tuesday, as they attempted 68 shots. Problem is, only 27 of them got to the net. Twenty-five were blocked by Minnesota players. Murray doesn't mind shots from the blue line, as long as they're taken in the proper fashion.

``You have to be able to get it through the first layer,'' Murray said. ``Last night, they fronted everything. When we had a net presence, our man was all alone in front of the net. If you get the puck through, it's going on the goalie. That's where we're missing that layer, to get a puck through. We're not changing the angle (of the shot).

``You've got to move your feet. You've got to move your stick. It's just a matter of stretching your arm out another couple inches, to miss that defenseman that is going to block it, and get the puck through.''

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