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Kings find line where Lucic clicks

by Dan Rosen / Los Angeles Kings

Los Angeles Kings left wing Milan Lucic looks to be finding his stride on his new team, proof that coach Darryl Sutter's latest experiment is working.

The Kings' second line of Lucic with center Jeff Carter and right wing Tyler Toffoli (Marian Gaborik, Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown technically make up the first line) has become one of the best lines in the NHL this season. Lucic is a big part of it, literally and figuratively, and is a key reason for the Kings' current six-game winning streak.

Lucic has two goals and three assists during his four-game point streak. Carter has seven of his team-high nine points in the past four games on three goals and four assists. Toffoli has scored six of his team-high seven goals in the past six games.

They have accounted for nine of the Kings' 14 goals in the past four games, and now are the Kings' top-three scorers with a combined 23 points through nine games.

It's a drastic change from the Kings' first couple games, when Lucic looked out of place and out of sorts.

Despite optimism that Lucic would mesh well with Kopitar and Gaborik and form a big, dangerous first line, it didn't work. Lucic didn't seem to have any chemistry with Kopitar and Gaborik in the first two games.

There were a few legitimate reasons why a line that looked so good on paper didn't work on the ice.

With Lucic at left wing Gaborik had to shift from his natural left wing to right wing, where he's not as comfortable.

Lucic, as Sutter noted after two games, also was accustomed to playing with a right-handed center, David Krejci with the Boston Bruins, and that trying to play with Kopitar, a left shot, proved to be a difficult transition.

There's a difference between how a puck is delivered to a left wing from a right-handed center vs. a left handed center. It's a more natural delivery from a righty as opposed to a longer delivery on a backhand from a lefty.

The puck wasn't coming to Lucic as crisply from Kopitar as it was when he played with Krejci. He had some hesitation in his game, which he admitted in a Yahoo Sports story Oct. 19 and never could get his game going.

It didn't help that Kopitar and Gaborik are more dashers and east/west skaters than up and down grinders. Lucic is a straight-ahead north/south player. If you get him going east/west you've got him right where you want him.

On the flip side, Carter is a righty so his delivery to Lucic is more natural for both players. Toffoli also is comfortable at right wing so no one had to move to accommodate Lucic. And Carter and Toffoli are north/south players like Lucic.

So for now the line is working and Lucic is finding his stride in L.A., when at first it looked like an awful fit and the Kings looked like a team in for a world of trouble.

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