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Kings Notebook (March 1)

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
The Kings will return to action on Tuesday at Dallas.

DALLAS – They’re back.

Video: Murray | Quick | Brown

After a two-week break for the Olympics, the Kings became whole again Monday afternoon in Dallas. The five Olympians trickled back – some on Sunday, some on Monday – in preparation for Tuesday’s game at Dallas.

Drew Doughty returned with a gold medal, won when Canada beat the United States 3-2 in overtime Sunday in Vancouver. Doughty got the better of Kings teammates Dustin Brown, Jack Johnson and Jonathan Quick, each of whom earned silver medals.

Michal Handzus represented Slovakia, which finished fourth.

But now, after two weeks of international play, the focus returns to the NHL, and the Kings can’t afford much of a post-Olympic hangover. They resume the season in a favorable spot, fifth in the Western Conference, but with 21 games remaining in the regular season, there’s not a significant margin for error in the tight playoff race.

Games against Dallas and Nashville, teams still very much in the playoff hunt, will provide an instant challenge, and Murray took a realistic approach when discussing what he expects from the Kings in their first game after a two-week break.

"That first game, we're just going to have to kind of feel our way into it," Murray said. "But I like what we've done in the practices. There's been real good attention to detail. Players have brought good energy and focus and concentration. So with all of that behind us now, we just have to get back into the games, and players have to be sure that they're managing their minutes the right way.

"You don't want to over-extend yourself in the early goings. Let the game play out. Don't be hesitant. Just keep going after it, keep that aggressive mindset and I think as we manage that emotionally, we'll be OK, get back on track and, hopefully after a couple games, get back to full speed."

Brown, Doughty, Johnson and Handzus have been playing for two weeks. The rest of the Kings have been practicing since Wednesday.

BACK TO PLAYING
Quick will start in goal Tuesday, even though Murray is a bit anxious to see what his goalie will look like. As the United States’ third goalie, Quick practiced for two weeks but did not appear in a game. Will he be rested or rusty, or both?

Quick didn’t seem concerned after Monday’s practice.

"It was difficult with three goalies, but I did see my fair share of shots," Quick said. "If I didn't get enough during practice, then after practice we were doing stuff, drills here and there. So I was able to stay in shape and be ready to go."

Quick practiced with the Kings on Monday morning, and will be able to get in more work during Tuesday’s morning skate.

"I have a little bit of concern for it, absolutely," Murray said. "I know that when you go to these kinds of tournaments, there's not a lot of quality practice time, especially when you're the third man on the totem pole. And the U.S. ended up playing four or five afternoon games, so you don't have the morning skates to get the work.

"So I have a bit of concern, but I'm going to put that aside and just put him in net and get him going again. It's a big month for us and he's our key guy, and we have to get him back into the game. Physically and mentally, I think he's ready to go. It's just a matter of getting his game conditioning going, and that's only going to happen with playing games."

TRADE TALK
The NHL’s trade deadline is Wednesday at noon Pacific time, and Kings general manager Dean Lombardi has publicly called himself a "buyer," at the right price.

The Kings are known to be in the market for a winger, but with so many teams still in the playoff hunt, and not a lot of quality players known to be available on the trade market, it wouldn’t be a surprise, at all, to see the Kings’ roster remain unchanged after the deadline.

That would seemingly be just fine with Murray.

"If something gets close, Dean will bring me into it and talk about it and ask my opinion," Murray said. "That has not happened. I love our team right now. I love our chemistry, and that is so important in this game today. The locker room is very tight and cohesive. They play hard for each other. We've gotten to a point right now in our season, and it has come through team play.

"If we stay the same, that's fine with me. I'll coach the players that we have, and if management feels something needs to be added to it, then that's their decision, but I love this group right now."

WILLIAMS MAKING PROGRESS

The happiest member of the Kings’ traveling party Monday afternoon might have been a player who won’t even be playing during the two-game road trip.

Justin Williams, who has been out since Dec. 26 with a broken leg, accompanied the team on the road trip in order to continue practicing with teammates.

That’s a huge step for Williams, whose return is probably at least a couple weeks off but who has made enormous progress in the past couple weeks. Williams made it through a full practice with the Kings for the first time Monday, and while injured players typically don’t go on road trips, Williams clearly is taking big strides toward a return.

The reason, in part, for Williams’ strong recovery is the way doctors handled his injury. Rather than putting screws in his leg, that need to be removed later, doctors put in a plate that will stay in Williams leg. Williams, while admitting that he’s far from a medical expert, said he believes the procedure accelerated his recovery time a bit.

"I did as much research as I could on this," Williams said. "I had a goal in mind for myself (for a return), and it just helps me drive forward every day. Surprisingly, it's like right around where I thought it would be."

WATCH PARTY TUESDAY
Redondo Beach Cafe will host a watch party for the Kings vs. Dallas Stars game on Tuesday...Details
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