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Kings Notebook (Dec. 3)

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
Center Brayden Schenn was sent back to the WHL's Brandon Wheat Kings on Friday for a final season of junior hockey.
EL SEGUNDO -- The saga of Brayden Schenn took Schenn through Los Angeles, Manchester, N.H., and quite a few press boxes throughout North America.

Schenn finally learned his future this week, and on Friday morning the Kings officially assigned him back to his junior team, Brandon of the Western Hockey League.

Schenn, 19, has one season of junior eligibility remaining. Schenn played eight games with the Kings (with two assists) and before he played his 10th game, the Kings had to decide whether to return him to junior or keep him and use a year of his contract.

The decision wasn’t easy. Schenn last played with the Kings on Oct. 30 and has been in limbo since, as the Kings decided what to do with him. Schenn was playing limited minutes as a fourth-line center, and was a healthy scratch in 16 of 24 games -- thus the press-box visits -- so the Kings decided he development was better served in junior.

Schenn’s wait-and-see month included a two-week AHL conditioning assignment in Manchester, but Schenn never got in a game after his return last week.

``I'm disappointed,’’ Schenn said Friday. ``I haven't really played a game with this team since Oct. 30. Just being around here and stuff, I think I've gotten better since Oct. 30, the last time I played a game with this team. It would have been nice to get another chance, but I'll just have to wait until next year. Another year of junior, obviously it's disappointing but I guess in the long run it will never hurt.’’

Schenn had a strong start to the season, but his ice time quickly fell off as coaches stressed the need for a more-responsible defensive game.

The No. 5 overall pick in the 2009 draft, Schenn remains a big part of the Kings’ future, and is likely to contend for a second- or third-line center spot in training camp next season, and coach Terry Murray said there are areas in which Schenn can improve.

``The most important thing, for all young players, is to be able to play without the puck,’’ Murray said. ``It's the reads, it's the reaction to the game whenever you're in your D-zone or the opposition has the puck. If you get those instincts in place, those reads down to a consistent level, the other part takes care of itself.

``You're going to have the puck more and you're going to be able to put points on the board. That's something that Brayden Schenn should not even worry about, the offensive part of it, because that's ingrained. He has it. He has great skill.''

Schenn’s immediately future includes a return to Manitoba, and the Wheat Kings, who are struggling this season, in fifth place in the six-team WHL East Division.

The Wheat Kings won’t have Schenn for long, though. Schenn will be a major part of Team Canada for the World Junior Championships, which start Dec. 26 in Buffalo. Schenn won a silver medal playing for Canada last season.

Murray said he intends to start tomorrow night’s game against Detroit with the same lines he has been using in recent days -- Anze Kopitar centering Dustin Brown and Justin Williams, for instance -- but Murray said he will keep his eyes open.

When Kopitar scored the game-winning goal late in the third period Thursday night, he had Michal Handzus -- typically the Kings’ third-line center -- playing on his left and Brown playing on his right.

Murray, in the third period, also went back to the line of Ryan Smyth, Jarret Stoll and Justin Williams, one that had been successful in the early part of the season.

Handzus playing on left wing is something the Kings have turned to, late in games, periodically over the past couple seasons, and Murray said he wouldn’t be afraid to do it again if the correct opportunity presented itself.

``I watched the game over again, as I always do,’’ Murray said, ``broke it down and I really liked what I saw with the times that they were together, with Zeus on that left side. To me, he stabilized it with a big-bodied, veteran player. He was very powerful along the boards, and the line looked very good to me.

``I'm going to go with it [the lines] the way I practiced today, but I really feel good about it, anytime that I would have to make that change to give us that kind of a look. Whether it's late in a game or we just need to get something going, I think that Zeus has got great playmaking ability. His history shows that, and it would be an easy transition for him to be able to make that.’’

Jonathan Quick will start in goal for the Kings against Detroit at STAPLES Center.

Quick has faced Detroit seven previous times, and lost the first five but has won the lst two. Last season, Quick allowed 11 goals in four games against the Red Wings.

``Quicker has faced them several other times, and it will be a nice challenge for him,'' coach Terry Murray said.

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