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Kings Notebook (Jan. 12)

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
Peter Harrold is expected to return to the lineup on Thursday vs. Anaheim. No word yet on who he will replace on the blueline.

Terry Murray didn't get exactly what he was looking for out of the Kings' game Monday against San Jose. That, of course, would have been a victory.

But Murray, it seems, got a good enough feeling from the game to go back to more traditional forward lines. Anze Kopitar and Ryan Smyth, who formed a successful partnership early in the season, were back together on the first line in practice Tuesday with a new right winger, Wayne Simmonds. (Kings Lines)

Murray hopes the new lines will spark something in his team's offense, which has slumbered a bit of late as the Kings have lost three consecutive games and seven of their last 10, all by one goal.

The Kings are coming off a strong third period in Monday's loss, and need some momentum heading into Thursday's game against Anaheim, a team that could be only four points behind the Kings if it defeats Boston on Wednesday.

"Talking with players here this morning, privately, and 1-on-1s, everybody felt really good with what happened yesterday, with the attitude, with the work, with the opportunities that were there," Murray said. "The one comment that was very interesting... When we got down 2-1, it was one of the feelings that we've had in recent games, where there's been a very calm, relaxed feeling of `It's OK. Just keep going. We're doing the right thing. We're doing a good job here.'

"We executed, through the rest of that game, at a real good level. That's pretty good feedback from a player. That's, to me, a growth spurt with our hockey club. That's the mentality that is in and out with us sometimes. I think we've shown it for some periods of time this year, and other times we get away and we get off page, we're not consistent in our execution."

Murray hopes that familiarity might help that execution. Along with the new first line, Michal Handzus will center Alexander Frolov and Dustin Brown, a familiar trio, while Jarret Stoll will center Brad Richardson and Scott Parse.

The big move, though, is Simmonds to the first line, a spot he filled earlier this season when Justin Williams was out of the lineup. Williams is out now, with a broken ankle, which gives Simmonds an opportunity to shine.

"I thought he played very well the last time that I put him there," Murray said of Simmonds. "He was there for five games, and in three of those games he was excellent. He showed us an ability to move to a high skill level, to play with those players, and he brings grit to that line. He's a pretty determined young man, and if he can add those characteristics to that line, I think he can be very effective."

Murray said that Peter Harrold, who has split time between forward and defense this season, but has been a healthy scratch of late, will be in the Kings' lineup Thursday night as a defenseman.

Harrold has appeared in 24 games this season, with one assist, and has been a healthy scratch in the last four games. Murray did not say which defenseman would come out of the lineup Thursday.

"He deserves an opportunity," Murray said of Harrold. "He's been here for the year and a half. He's worked hard, he's in great shape, he's ready to go, and I think that putting in a player who has been here and knows what we're doing and knows the pace of the game and the speed of the game, through practicing a lot, is a better decision than making another change with someone that's in the minors. That's my opinion."

Murray basically admitted, less than a month into the season, that his confidence in backup goalie Erik Ersberg had dropped. It showed, even with Murray saying it, in the fact that Ersberg got only four starts in the first three months of the season.

But on Monday, against the Sharks, Ersberg had a strong outing, with 32 saves. Murray said Jonathan Quick will be back in goal Thursday, but the coach had praise for Ersberg, who has made strides since his first start of the season, a 4-2 loss to the New York Rangers on Oct. 14.

"I would agree that there was a little bit of a confidence issue there," Murray said. "I can justify it, in my opinion. I go back to the Ranger game. Giving up one shot and we lose the game in the third period.

"So I can go back through a few situations, but his game recently, and his practice habits... And let me be fair to him too. He had that bone bruise on his hand, through quite a bit of time in practice, and it was on his caching glove (hand) and it was bothersome. Every time the puck hit that spot, he had to take five or 10 seconds to relax and settle in again for the next play. He's healthy, he's been working very hard in practice recently, and I think you saw a pretty good result with his effort last night."
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