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Evaluation Key In Kings Split in Phoenix

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
Mark Morris led the Kings to a 1-1-0 record vs. PHX at the Rookie Tournament.

The idea of "rookie games" is to expose prospects to as many real-game situations as possible in an NHL arena and in a professional environment.

To that extent, the Kings achieved their goal, even if the road was a bit rocky.

The Kings' prospects split a two-game series against the Phoenix Coyotes' prospects, winning 5-4 in a shootout on Tuesday night and losing 7-1 on Wednesday afternoon. Every healthy player in the rookie camp saw at least a half-game of action.

All of the players will now move on to the main training camp, which begins Saturday morning in El Segundo, and while there are not expected to be many spots open on the Kings' roster, the prospects will have a further chance to impress the coaching staff and management.

Those folks came away with mixed feelings after the two-game series. In the first game, the Kings largely dominated the first two periods and took a two-goal lead, only to lose it and have to win in a shootout. The second game was no contest, as the Coyotes scored the first six goals.

Evaluation was the goal, however, even more than competition, as Manchester Monarchs coach Mark Morris -- who served as the prospects' coach -- said after the second game.

"All of these games are character-builders," Morris said. "When things are going well, it’s easy, but when you go through a game like this, you really find out which guys are going to battle, tooth and nail, through the hard times. That’s as valuable as finding ways to win. You’ve just got to dig deep. I think that the guys who are going to progress with their careers are the ones who battle through these times and learn from the shortcomings."

In the first game, Thomas Hickey came back from an early bloodied chin to score the first goal, and Kyle Clifford added a goal before Phoenix scored to cut the Kings' lead to 2-1 after the first.

Jordan Weal scored the only goal of the second period, for a 3-1 Kings lead, but the Coyotes scored twice in the first four minutes of the third period to tie the game. Robbie Czarnik scored with 6:35 remaining but the Coyotes tied the game with 1:36 left.

The Kings owned the shootout, though, as Brandon Kozun scored the only goal and Martin Jones deftly stopped three shots to give the Kings the victory.

The second game wasn't as kind to the Kings, but the game also had a very different feel as the Kings made healthy scratches out of four of their stronger prospects in order to get a look at players who had been invited to camp on a tryout basis.

The Kings were never really in the game, as the Coyotes led 2-0 after the first period, 4-0 after the second period and 6-0 midway through the third before Weal scored the Kings' only goal, his second of the two-game series.

J.F. Berube started in goal and allowed three of the goals, then camp invite Garrett Zemlak played the final 30 minutes.
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