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Kings Notebook (Jan. 13)

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
Wayne Simmonds will play on the Kings first line with Ryan Smyth and Anze Kopitar.

The first time around, Wayne Simmonds' "batting average" was .600. Thursday night, Simmonds will get another swing as the Kings' first-line right winger.

Simmonds filled that role for five games in late October, when Justin Williams was out with a lower-body injury. Kings coach Terry Murray said Simmonds performed well in that role for three of those games, and now, with Williams out for roughly 10 more weeks with a broken ankle, Simmonds will get another chance.

After the injury took place, the Kings went with Dustin Brown on the first line - and Scott Parse, for one game - but didn't get enough scoring. The Kings' hope is that Simmonds, with his energy and ability to create havoc, can open things up for his linemates, center Anze Kopitar and left winger Ryan Smyth.

Simmonds has 10 goals and 14 assists this season. Kopitar has two goals in his last four games but, before that, went eight games with a goal. Smyth has four goals in his nine games since returning from an upper-body injury, all of them on the power play.

"I think I can give them space," Simmonds said. "I'm normally the first guy on the puck. I get in there, I bang, I crash, I try to get loose pucks, and I think if I do that for them, and get pucks out to them and draw two guys to me, those guys have great hands and they're great playmakers and scorers, and they can make plays."

Murray has been comfortable using Simmonds - who started the season on the third line - in a variety of roles this season, usually with success, and said he feels good about Simmonds' ability to contribute on the top line.

"It's a chance for him to be able to participate in that skill mindset and, at the same time, bring some grit to the line," Murray said. "I think he's a player who has shown, in the past, (the ability) to get pretty involved in the physical side of it. If there's anything going on, he needs to be a player who jumps in and helps out.

"And also...he jumps into the flow. He's strong on the boards. He can make little plays down in the offensive zone, with the give-and-gos, and I liked what he did when I put him up there, three of the five games before. I thought he jumped in and did a real fine job."

One thing the Kings apparently don't have to worry about is Simmonds' knee. Simmonds had an arthroscopic procedure on his knee in mid-December but missed only two weeks

"It's great," Simmonds said. "Day after day, it gets better. It's probably never going to be exactly the same, but I'm just adapting to how it feels. I'm getting used to it, I'm adapting to it, and it feels good. It's not preventing me from doing anything."

The Kings will make a lineup change for Thursday's night game against the Ducks at STAPLES Center, as Peter Harrold will replace Alec Martinez on defense.

Harrold, a natural defenseman, has played 23 of his 24 games this season as a forward, but Murray said Wednesday that Martinez was "a little behind the play" in his last two games. Martinez, a rookie, has played in four games with the Kings this season.

"The two games that (Martinez) played, those are against premier teams in the game," Murray said, referring to Detroit and San Jose. "It's a true test of where a player is at; there's no question. It was very demanding. He's a better player today than what we saw in training camp, and that's really a good thing, but just off in some areas.

"So Harry has been here. He's that utility guy that I've talked about, and he's been a part of the team for a couple years. He knows what we're doing. He knows the expectations that we have of him."

Harrold will return to the lineup with Randy Jones as his defensive partner, which could make for a mobile, puck-moving pairing, although Harrold said he won't try to do anything out of the ordinary.

"(Murray) just said that I would be back in the lineup tomorrow, and obviously I'm excited about that," Harrold said. "He said to just keep it simple and do the right things. They have faith in me, so that's good."

"I haven't been away from (playing defense) for that long. I've played it for most of my life, so I'm pretty comfortable."

Murray said defenseman Matt Greene, out with an undisclosed lower-body injury, had an MRI this week that revealed the "best possible scenario." Murray said he expected Greene to be out "close to a couple weeks" but said Greene could participate in off-ice workouts and "flow skating" soon.

Davis Drewiske, expected to be out at least one more week with a shoulder injury, skated before practice Wednesday, and Murray was pleased with Drewiske's progress.

"He's doing all the work with the rehab part of it. It's improved dramatically," Murray said. "He's going to be able to get on the ice here pretty soon, with the practices, and get in there at the end of the skates and really dig in and get a lot of good conditioning and be ready to go whenever he gets the OK from the medical staff to be able to play. It's a real good scenario for us. He's a hungry guy. He's going to push it as hard as he can, off the ice, to get the rehab work through. In my mind, he will be back sooner than expected."
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