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Kings Notebook (April 22)

by Staff Writer / Los Angeles Kings
Will Justin Williams return to the lineup in Game 5? Terry Murray left open the possibility.

A 2-1 series lead, a third-period lead in Game 4 and...a loss.

Practice Report

It happened to the Kings on Wednesday night against Vancouver, and the Canucks know exactly how the Kings felt. A year ago, it was the Canucks who had a chance to take a commanding 3-1 series lead in their second-round series against Chicago.

Vancouver led 1-0 late in the third period of Game 4, but allowed Chicago to score with 2:44 remaining in regulation, and the Blackhawks won 2:52 into overtime.

Wednesday night at STAPLES Center, the Kings-Canucks game was tied 4-4 when Vancouver’s Henrik Sedin scored with 2:52 remaining in regulation.

Here’s the part the Kings probably won’t want to hear. After that Game 4 disappointment last year, the Canucks lost the next two games, and the series, to Chicago.

The Kings will be looking to avoid that type of emotional letdown when they face the Canucks in Game 5 on Friday night in Vancouver. The series is tied but the momentum, not to mention home-ice advantage, rests with the Canucks right now.

"You could really sense it, when I walked into the locker room last night, that it was a very difficult one to deal with," Kings coach Terry Murray said of the 6-4 loss. "But, as a team, you've got to go through it together. Veteran players need to step up here and say a few things. The leadership group is a part of this thing. They've all been through a lot of these battles before, and it's an important time for them to be a part of it."

The Kings, on Thursday, got a day off the ice to clear their heads, as Murray canceled a scheduled practice and simply had the team fly to Vancouver in the afternoon.

Before their flight, players met with reporters in El Segundo and talked about the challenge of overcoming the huge missed opportunity they had the night before.

"This is what playoffs are all about," veteran winger Ryan Smyth said. "You ride a big wave. At times, you go through your ups and downs, but you can't ride them too high or too low. We've got a great team here. We've got older guys who can settle things down, and we've got young guys that have energy and that want to learn and want to create things at another level. I think we'll handle it well."

Anze Kopitar, who is making his playoff debut, added, "Obviously if would be a lot better if we were up 3-1 right now, but that's just the way the game goes. You've got to shake it off. Tomorrow is the next game and we're going to be ready for it."

Murray left open the possibility that veteran winger Justin Williams might return to the Kings’ lineup for Game 5, but said he hadn’t made up his mind.

Williams, the Kings’ first-line right winger for a majority of this season, has been a healthy scratch from the previous two games due to Murray’s dissatisfaction with his play. "I've got a lot of different line combinations, with Willy included, trying to look at different situations where I can get him in," Murray said. "I'll continue to do that today."

Murray indicated that he would stay with the same defensive lineup in Game 5, which means that Randy Jones will stay in.

Jones, who had been a healthy scratch from the previous two games, played almost 16 minutes in Game 4, had a plus-1 rating and was credited with three blocked shots, including a critical one in the third period that likely prevented a Vancouver goal.

"I liked what Jones did, going in," Murray said. "I thought he played pretty well. He had his feet moving and made some good plays. We'll stay with that."

The Kings already had their hands full with the twin combination of Daniel and Henrik Sedin, one of the most potent scoring duos in the NHL, but their task got even tougher Wednesday when Mikael Samuelsson moved up to the first line.

Samuelsson has five goals so far in this series, and his strong overall play, coupled with the constant threat of the Sedins, might make the Canucks much more difficult to defend. Samuelsson replaced Alex Burrows on the Canucks’ first line.

"They're two different players in my mind," Smyth said. "Burrows is more in the corners, rugged, hanging around the net area, whereas Samuelsson is more out at the top of the circles, a shooter. He's obviously been effective this series. He's got five goals. So it's a different element, but we've got to eliminate the puck possession."

After Game 4, Kings goalie Jonathan Quick issued a fairly sharp self-analysis, as he pointed out that, in the playoffs, goalies need to make big saves at critical times and, "I wasn’t able to do that for the team tonight."

Quick faced significant pressure throughout the game, and stopped 31 of 36 shots, but Murray said he didn’t feel the need to make sure Quick wasn’t beating himself up too much, emotionally, after the loss.

"In my opinion, it's always good to take on responsibility," Murray said. "It's good to feel bad, as a player, and sense that you could have made a difference in the game, whether you're a goaltender or a forward or a defenseman. There are critical plays, where something happens and it's a turnover, and you made the mistake -- and I've been through that as a player -- you've got to feel bad.

"The test is to be able to rebound from that, and know that your teammates are not looking at you and saying, `OK, you're the reason why.' Your teammates are right behind you, everybody is in the same foxhole together and we've got to battle hard again in Game 5."

Murray was also asked for his impressions of Quick’s overall game.

"I thought he did a pretty good job," Murray said. "I watched those goals against on the review here this morning. He had a lot of traffic. There's some redirections. The one I'd like to see him have back would be the Demitra one. It's an odd rush, but just off-angle a little bit. You've got a goal scorer, a guy who showed what he can do in the Olympics. He's a pretty good goal scorer and he was able to find the far side."
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