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Kings Notebook (April 5)

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
Brad Richardson is the Kings nomination for the Bill Masterton trophy.

There were smiles, and a large ovation from the couple dozen fans in attendance, but then the Kings quickly got back to work in practice Monday. A lot of work, in fact.

Coach Terry Murray kept his players on the ice for more than an hour, the message being simple and clear: there's still work to be done. The Kings are officially in the playoffs for the first time since 2002, but they also want to go in with some momentum.

The Kings have four games remaining in the regular season. If they were to finish 4-0, they would finish fifth in the Western Conference, with an outside chance at fourth place.

"(Making the playoffs) was our goal at the beginning of the year," captain Dustin Brown said. "We did it with four games left, so that's exciting but at the same time, we still have four games and we need to take these games just as seriously as if we needed to win every single one of them. I think it's important that we go into the playoffs on a roll, so these four games are pretty important."

The Kings, almost certainly, will face either San Jose, Chicago, Vancouver or Phoenix in the first round. This season, the Kings went 3-2-1 against San Jose, 1-2-1 against Chicago and Vancouver and 3-2-0 against Phoenix (with one game to go).

Not surprisingly, though, Brown said he wasn't thinking about potential matchups now.

"What we need to focus on is just our game," Brown said. "You get to the playoffs and you find out who you're playing and I think you go from there. We can't really sit here and say, `We want to play this team or that team."'

That's also the message Murray wanted to get across, particularly after the Kings' 2-1 shootout loss to Anaheim on Saturday, a game with which Murray was not pleased.

That led to the longer-than-normal practice on Monday morning, in advance of tomorrow's Kings-Ducks rematch at Honda Center.

"As you get into the playoffs now, it gets harder," Murray said. "It will really get to that half-ice game that we saw against Anaheim the other day. Tightens down the checking, the heavy play along the boards, and it's going to take more focus and more consistency in performance. The message was part that. The other half, I think, was brought on by the performance last game. I wasn't happy with how we competed, and we need to make sure that we're ready to go in the game tomorrow."

HALPERN UPDATE

Jeff Halpern, who missed Saturday's game with an upper-body injury -- sustained during Thursday's game after a hit by Vancouver's Tanner Glass -- returned to practice on Monday but is not expected to play Tuesday against Anaheim.

"He skated yesterday on his own," Murray said. "Kinger [trainer Chris Kingsley] had him on the ice, just passing some pucks and doing shooting drills, to get it going again. Same with the look today. He wasn't part of the competitive drills.

"It's improving. He can start to push it, and we'll go through the next couple days and the doctor will have another look at him. It's still going to require a few more days."

LINING UP
Murray has spent much of the past month tinkering with his forward lines, trying to find the correct fit, but it seems as though Murray might be settled.

The Kings' top three lines of center Anze Kopitar and wingers Ryan Smyth and Justin Williams; center Jarret Stoll and wingers Frolov and Brown; and center Michal Handzus and wingers Fredrik Modin and Wayne Simmonds appear as though they will stay intact.

Murray said he's considering a change on the fourth line -- previously made up of Raitis Ivanans, Brad Richardson and Scott Parse -- for Tuesday, but said his days of making wholesale changes to the lines might be done.

"Looking at it, I've been looking for a way to get Frolov, Handzus and Simmonds back together. Right now, I'm settling in to the way it is," Murray said. "They're starting to get some chemistry with Modin. I think that that's starting to come along pretty good, and I don't want to tamper with that. Fro and Brownie and Stoll, they had a huge game against Vancouver, and I would like to think that that is going to have meaning and importance as you get through the end of the season and into the playoffs.

"I'll probably stay there. The only line that, obviously, I'm going to keep looking at is, who the opponent is, do I need that physicality? Do I need to put some players in in those situations? The top three lines will stay pretty consistent."

ALL SHOOK UP?

The magnitude-7.2 earthquake in Mexico on Sunday afternoon was felt throughout the Southern California area, including at the Kings' offices in El Segundo.

Murray, a Quebec native who has spent most of his life on the East Coast, got his first real experience with a moderate-sized earthquake.

"I didn't know what was going on," Murray said. "I'm sitting at the desk watching my computer, the Anaheim game, and I'm wondering, 'Am I really sensing this?' I walk out and Billy [goalie coach Bill Ranford] is lifting weights, so I'm (thinking), 'Is it me?' So I went and stood in the doorway and kind of got a feel for what was going on outside. You could see a little bit of it. It was exciting."

RICHARDSON NOMINATED
Richardson has been nominated, by the Los Angeles chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association, as the Kings' nominee for the 2010 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.

The trophy is awarded in honor of Masterton, who died of an on-ice injury in 1968, to a player who best exhibits the qualities of "perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication."

In nominating Richardson, the chapter said he "has brought energy, enthusiasm and determination to a young team that is establishing its identity and has helped by playing on all four lines and switching from left wing to center as required. His upbeat attitude has been important in getting the Kings through some rocky stretches after the Olympic break."
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