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Kings Notebook (Feb. 10)

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
Anze Kopitar, a No. 1 center looking for linemates.

Anze Kopitar is the rock on the Kings’ first line. His partners? They’re subject to change, sometimes on a daily basis.

Ryan Smyth and Dustin Brown. Brad Richardson and Wayne Simmonds. Smyth and Brown. Richardson and Brown. Alexander Frolov and Brown.

Since injuries derailed what had been a successful line of Kopitar, Smyth and Justin Williams, head coach Terry Murray has been on a near-constant quest to find Kopitar’s correct partners.

The search, on Wednesday, led him to try Richardson and Brown as Kopitar’s wingers, something Murray said he will stay with Thursday night when the Kings host the Edmonton Oilers at STAPLES Center.

This will be Richardson’s second stint on the first line, after what had been a successful pairing with Kopitar and Simmonds. Murray put an end to it before Monday’s game, when he went with a first line of Smyth, Kopitar and Brown.

"When Simmonds and Richardson were there, through that stretch, they were good," Murray said. "They really worked hard, they scored. We were very successful through our long road trip, and that was a huge reason why, in my opinion. I thought Kopitar really started to take his game back up to where it was, in fact even a little bit beyond that, in my opinion. I took a look at the two wingers, and I thought they were getting away from their game. The reason why I put them there was hard work, a skill level and really being alert to pucks, really anticipating plays and reacting very quickly to it.

"I think we just dropped off a bit on that, with Simmer and with Richie, but I don't want to get too far away from that, simply because I liked what was going on. So I put Richie back there today. I just want to take a look at that. Maybe it will only last for a period, but I definitely want to take a look at it tomorrow again."

The move also gives the Kings a second line of Smyth, Jarret Stoll and Simmonds, a trio that had some success during the middle part of the season in limited time together. The Kings’ third line of Frolov, Michal Handzus and Scott Parse is expected to remain intact.

The Kings placed forward Brandon Segal on waivers. If Segal clears on Thursday morning, he will be eligible to be sent to Manchester of the AHL.

The Monarchs continue playing during the NHL’s two-week Olympic break, so Segal would need to clear waivers in order to play for the Monarchs during the break. NHL rosters are frozen during the break.

Murray said Jonathan Quick will start in goal tomorrow against Edmonton, meaning that Quick will have started 56 of the Kings’ first 61 games.

That would put Quick on pace for 75 starts this season, which would set the franchise record and put him at a level that only a small percentage of NHL goalies reach.

Quick, though, just turned 24 and seems to thrive on work, so Murray barely paused when presented with the idea that Quick might need some rest.

"He told me he's doing great," Murray said. "Quick is playing. He feels great. He's fresh. He's feeling strong and he's very excited about what's going on here. If you can't get excited about a nine-game winning streak... Why would you ever leave that battleground? You want to stay with it and build on it. He's feeling good."

Quick will also get two weeks during the Olympics. Since he is expected to be the United States’ No. 3 goalie, it’s not likely that he will get a lot of work.

Can the end of a winning streak ever be a good thing for a team?

That might be a stretch for the Kings. After they won four consecutive games in October, they lost their next three. A 7-1 stretch in November and December was followed by a 2-5 stretch. But there seemed to be a lightness to the Kings’ practice Wednesday, leading the question of whether the Kings could start fresh, without the pressure of trying to extend a winning streak.

"Obviously there's a little bit of pressure added to the already pretty heavy pressure that we're feeling, and that every team is feeling these days," Brown said. "Obviously we lost a game. The mind set that we need to have is that there's an opportunity for us to start another streak. Most importantly, there's a streak we can't let begin, and that's two losses.

"Ultimately, we have another opportunity tomorrow night to win a game and get back on track. There's only two games left before the break. We need to focus in on those two games and have that mind set of must-wins."
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