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Kings Notebook (Dec. 2)

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
Scott Parse came up big against the Ducks on Tuesday night.

It's often instructive to analyze all sorts of numbers in order to determine how a hockey team is faring. How's the penalty kill? Save percentage? Defensive-zone face offs?

But here's a simple one: when the Kings take the lead into the third period, they win.

There's no practice drill for that, no film that can be broken down for scrutiny. It's simply a learned skill, a mentality, one that the Kings seem to have right now.

After Tuesday's 4-3 victory over the Ducks, the Kings improved their record to 10-0 in games in which they hold a lead going into the third period. That's particularly impressive for a young team, one that might tend to panic under pressure.

"It means that you're going to stay after it," Kings coach Terry Murray said. "I look back at quite a few games over the years, with young teams, and you have a tendency to pull back and play with that `Let's protect the lead' attitude. We're staying after the game. You want to keep doing the same things that got you there. That's a skill that you can learn. It's not an easy thing to learn.

"Sometimes, whenever you're protecting a lead in a one-goal game like that, and it's a young group of guys, the thought process sometimes stops, and sorting it out becomes an issue, but I really liked how we stayed after the game and are doing the right things when we have an opportunity be aggressive, to make plays, to get the forecheck going, whatever it might be. Playing the game, through the 60 minutes, is nice to see."

Not that it's easy, by any means. On Tuesday, the Kings led the Ducks 3-2 after two periods, gave up the tying goal early in the third period and had to scramble throughout the period under significant pressure.

Brad Richardson scored the game-winning goal with 2:20 remaining, and the Kings showed tremendous poise in holding off a 6-on-4 Ducks advantage late in the game.

Brandon Segal, in his first three games with the Kings, had started to establish himself as a strong fourth-line player who brought energy and wasn't afraid to hit.

Then, Segal suffered a tough break Tuesday when, on his second shift of the first period, he twisted his leg and had to leave the game. After Wednesday's practice, Segal said he had suffered a sprained knee, but nothing more serious.

"It wasn't even that painful," Segal said, "but when I skated, it felt a little loose. I had never done anything to my knee, but I knew there was something wrong."

It's not yet known when Segal will be able to return. Peter Harrold, a healthy scratch since Segal joined the team, is expected to replace Segal on the fourth line and skate with Raitis Ivanans and Brad Richardson.

In their previous four games, before Tuesday, the Kings had gone 0 for 13 on the power play and generated only 14 total shots. Against the Ducks, the Kings scored one power-play goal, in five chances, but totaled 14 shots on goal.

That's the type of "shot mentality" that Murray preaches on the power play, and Murray came away pleased with the improvement on the power play.

"Really good," Murray said. "I think when you look at the total game, and the number of power plays, maybe the best that we have shown, with our entries and in the offensive zone, puck movement, shot mentality, than in any game this year. It was very good. It just reinforced the same stuff. It will pay off for you."

Scott Parse did his job as a third-line, energy-providing checker on Tuesday, but he also did much more, particularly early in the game.

Parse seemed to have extra jump in his game from the opening faceoff and had several strong shifts in the offensive zone early in the game. He got rewarded for the work, 5:11 into the first period, when he scored on a wrist shot from the slot.

Wayne Simmonds made the pass that led to Parse's goal, and those two players seem to be developing some chemistry, as they have played well with centers Michal Handzus and Richardson.

"Simmer has been on fire lately, and it’s nice for me to get one," Parse said. "Zeus is just a solid player and really helps us out, both of us. He’s smart and he’s always in the right position, always doing the right thing. So far it’s been good."

The Kings have managed a 6-4 record in their last 10 games, even though their top scoring threat, center Anze Kopitar, has not scored a goal in 10 consecutive games.

Kopitar's drought has been surprising, particularly since he had 10 goals in the 10 games before it started. Ryan Smyth's absence -- he's out with an upper-body injury -- has hurt Kopitar, but Murray said he's not asking Kopitar to change anything in his game.

"There's a lot of good attitude still going on out there, with his play," Murray said. "We saw it several times last night, coming hard off the wing and taking pucks to the net. I see him playing in those hard areas still. You'll get rewarded for that. He's had several great scoring chances per game here, over the last while, and that's what you're looking for.

"There's no guarantee the puck is going to go in every night. As long as the scoring chances are there, and he's in the right areas to bring those opportunities to himself, that's what matters the most. He will get back there on the goal-scoring side of it. I feel good about his game right now."
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