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Kings Notebook (April 24)

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
Michal Handzus will move up to the Kings second line for Game No. 6.
If the Kings are depressed, scared, angry -- or feeling any type of emotion at all, really -- they did an excellent job of hiding it Saturday.


Practice Report | Stoll's Blog

Trailing 3-2 in their first-round series against Vancouver, facing possible elimination Sunday in Game 6, are they concerned? They say no.

Are they losing any faith in goalie Jonathan Quick, who has allowed 10 goals in his last two games and got pulled in Game 5? They say no.

Are they fired up and looking for revenge against Vancouver’s Shane O’Brien after his hand-waving post-fight celebration in the third period of Game 5? They say no.

What did the Kings say? That they’re excited, and focused on winning one game in order to take the series back to Vancouver tied, for a decisive Game 7 on Tuesday.

"If you can't get up for this, then you're crazy," Kings winger Wayne Simmonds said. "It's do or die. This could potentially be the last game of our season, so we'll come out scrapping and we're going to leave it all out there on the ice, that's for sure."

Just a few days ago, the Kings, seeded sixth in the Western Conference, were leading the third-seeded Canucks 2-1 in the series and held a third-period lead in Game 4, with a chance to put the Canucks on the brink of elimination.

A third-period collapse in that game, followed by the 7-2 meltdown Friday night in Vancouver, now has the Kings facing elimination. It’s simple. Lose tomorrow, and this season, one in which the Kings have made great strides, will be over.

"We're excited," Quick said. "We have the opportunity to do something great here. We've got to win two games in a row, obviously, to keep our season alive, but it's just one game at a time, one period at a time, and we know we can do this. We've done it before, so it's not something we think is unachievable. We definitely know that we can do it. We're confident in each other and we're confident in what we can."

The Kings held a full-team, 45-minute practice on Saturday afternoon that seemed quiet and businesslike, and the Kings, in large part, were tight-lipped with reporters.

"Everybody knows the situation," Kings defenseman Matt Greene said. "It's just business as usual. We've got to go out and win a game. That's it. We've got to win to keep it going, and that's all that's on our mind.''

Much of the discussion going into Game 6 will be about the Kings’ goaltending.

After Game 5, Murray bluntly said that Quick didn’t play well enough. He pulled Quick from the game in the second period, after Vancouver’s fourth goal, but put him back in the game after Erik Ersberg allowed two goals on four shots.

That led to questions Saturday about whether the Kings had considered calling up prospect Jonathan Bernier, the top goalie in the American Hockey League this season, who went 3-0 with one shutout during two short stints in the NHL this season.

Murray and general manager Dean Lombardi both indicated Saturday that no consideration was given to bringing Bernier back to the Kings.

"There just were no discussions about it," Murray said. "The lineup, for the coach, is based on what we have right here. Quick is the goaltender this is playing tomorrow. He's our guy. He's the guy that has done a great job for us all year long. He's rebounded from tough starts, difficult losses, over the course of the year, and that's one of the strengths of him, that he's got great mental toughness. He's able to block that stuff out and come back and play a real solid game the next day. So it's another one of those situations.

"It's a bad loss last night, but it's one of those games you have to move by very quickly. You can't get too low. You spend a little time on the ice here today, to bring some focus to different parts of it, and get back on the ice and play."

LINE CHANGES

The Kings tweaked their line combinations again Saturday, with only the top line of Anze Kopitar, Ryan Smyth and Simmonds remaining intact.

Michal Handzus now centers the second line, with Fredrik Modin and Dustin Brown, while Jarret Stoll centers a line with Alexander Frolov and Brad Richardson.

The fourth line is still to be determined, with either Raitis Ivanans or Scott Parse joining center Jeff Halpern and right winger Justin Williams.

"Changes are related to results in games, and how lines are playing in particular," Murray said. "I've made a couple of changes to try to generate some things in the offensive part of the game. I think our shot mentality, our net presence, our cycle and puck-possession play is not where it needs to be. There's been shifts, there's been stretches of periods that it's been very good, but on a consistent basis, it's not quite where we need it to be in order to win this game tomorrow."

Of the 16 playoff teams, the Kings rank 14th in shots on goal per game, with an average of 26.8. They averaged 29.1 shots during the regular season, 22nd in the league.

The Kings will not have the services of winger Rich Clune, who, according to Murray, suffered a "stiinger" during a third-period fight with Vancouver’s Rick Rypien.

"I don't know how long," Murray said of Clune’s status. "He certainly will be out tomorrow. There's nothing structurally wrong."

MOVING ON
Vancouver’s Shane O’Brien drew Murray’s ire for an incident late in Game 5 in which O’Brien, after a fight with Simmonds, raised his index fingers and played to the crowd. In his postgame interview, Murray called O’Brien a "clown."

Today, O’Brien told reporters in Vancouver that he regretted his actions.

"I wasn’t trying to show anybody up," O’Brien. "It was a big game, there was some emotion, the crowd was standing. The next thing I was raising my hands in the air. It was probably a little immature and uncalled for. For those of you who have been in a fight, there is some emotion. You don’t think before you act and I’m pretty good at that. I just have to start thinking before I do that."

Kings players, perhaps mindful of not getting into a public war of words, had little to say about O’Brien’s actions, and Murray seemed ready to let it go as well.

"I've been around long enough to see players that are going to celebrate their victory after a fight, and I don't have anything against that," Murray said. "To me, it's all dictated by the score of the game and how things are going in the game. When it is what it is, like last night, there's a little bit more meaning interpreted by me than what he intended. Hey, if he apologized, then I apologize for calling him a clown."
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