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Desperate Kings to Shake Things Up

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
The Kings shuffled their forwards. They met at center ice to talk things over after practice. They raised the possibility of turning two or three veterans into healthy scratches.

Clearly, it's time for the Kings to pull out all the stops. One more loss, and they're done.

The Kings trail San Jose 3-1 in their best-of-seven first-round series, and a loss Saturday night in San Jose in Game 5 will end their season. Having allowed 12 goals in their last two games, the Kings turned to measures that are admittedly a bit risky.

That means putting Scott Parse in the lineup, even though the previously injured winger hasn't played since mid-November. That means potentially scratching Dustin Penner, the much-ballyhooed trade-deadline acquisition who has been mostly silent in the series.

The Kings' new-look lines in practice Friday included Michal Handzus centering Parse and Justin Williams, and Trevor Lewis centering Ryan Smyth and Dustin Penner.

"It's not something that is an over-reaction to anything,'' coach Terry Murray said. 'The fact is, we've given up 12 goals in the last two games here at home. The goals against are self-inflicted, in my view, and we need to make a change. We need to get everybody's attention to the detail part of the game, the checking part of the game. San Jose has a good hockey club.

"They have three lines that are as good as any three lines in the NHL. So if we're going to have success against them, and whenever we do have success against them, we're playing a solid game, everybody is on page, doing the right things with the puck, and whenever we lose possession of the puck we recover and we have good defensive posture. So that has been a breakdown many times in those 12 goals against, and I need to get their attention and we need to make some changes as a result.''

The Kings' most successful, high-energy line of center Brad Richardson and wingers Kyle Clifford and Wayne Simmonds remained intact, but Murray declined to name his fourth line. Murray did say that Kevin Westgarth would stay in, leaving two spots available for four players: Penner, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Jarret Stoll and Oscar Moller.

"I haven't decided on what the fourth line is going to be. I'm not even going to call it the fourth line,'' Murray said. "Right now, with the way we're set up, we need four lines playing. They need to play well and they need to play properly, the right way on the checking side of the game especially. I want to roll those lines and just play a good tempo game.''


Murray spoke about the possibility of shifting forwards, but was adamant that the Kings would not make a change in goal. Jonathan Quick will start Game 5.

Quick has allowed six goals in each of his last two starts, but Murray sternly answered a question about whether he would consider a change and start backup Jonathan Bernier instead.

"No change in goal,'' Murray said. "Absolutely not. Jonathan Quick's our goaltender. He's our number-one guy, period. Those goals that we're seeing coming against us right now are a result of team play. Everybody is involved in it. He has played good. In fact, in the first period, I thought they would not score a goal on him (in the game). He was that sharp, in my opinion.''


It's been a long recovery road for Parse, who suffered his hip injury in training camp and attempted to return in November but had to leave the lineup again after five games.

Parse required surgery in November and hasn't played since, although he's been skating vigorously in practice (and after) for several weeks. Coincidentally, Parse last played on Nov. 15 in San Jose, and scored a goal.

After practice Friday, Parse pronounced himself 100 percent and ready to play.

`"'ve been skating hard for the last three weeks, so I was hoping to return in these playoffs sometimes,'' Parse said. "So it's here.''

Murray acknowledged that he was taking a bit of a risk by inserting Parse into a playoff elimination game, after a long layoff, but said the risk was worth it.

"You could probably say a little bit of a risk,'' Murray said, "but you just have to take all the factors into consideration, and put him in a situation where you do take on a little bit of risk, but I look at the risk-reward part of it too. He's a player who has been working very hard to get back at it. We tested him yesterday. His conditioning level is really good. I know the skill side of the game, with the puck on his stick, is good. He can give us some looks in the offensive zone. He can be a threat. He's got some speed, quickness that can match up with their speed and quickness. So, again, a change is good sometimes, and I'm hoping that this one is.''


After Game 4, Murray expressed some frustration in the matching minor penalties that were assessed to Kings defenseman Drew Doughty and Sharks fourth-line center Scott Nichol early in the second period.

During the ensuing 4-on-4 play, the Sharks scored twice to take a 2-0 lead. Murray expressed chagrin at the penalties, because they took Doughty, the Kings' best defenseman, off the ice in exchange for Nichol, a low-minute forward.

After practice Friday, Doughty said he could have controlled his emotions better, but also showed reporters why he was upset. A hit by Nichol, which led to the scuffle, resulted in two of Doughty's teeth being broken in half.

"Obviously I'm a little disappointed,'' Doughty said. "That's not really the right trade-off at all. My emotions were running high. He tried to knee me, so I was a little upset about that, and then he knocked out my teeth, so I was upset about that. He got them right in half. So I was upset, but still, that's the turning point of the game. They got two goals when I was in the box, so I can't be doing that. … I've just to realize that maybe if it was a guy like Boyle or Thornton or something like that, it's a better trade-off, but Nichol is a fourth-line center, not playing a lot of minutes. My team needs me, and I can't be in the box.''
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