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Kings Notebook (March 23)

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
Could Drew Doughty win the Norris Trophy?

Every successful campaign needs good endorsements, and Kings coach Terry Murray is ready to stump for his defenseman, Drew Doughty, in the "race" for the Norris Trophy.

Doughty's OT Goal

The Norris Trophy, awarded annually to the NHL’s top defenseman – as selected by members of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association – figures to be a much-debated prize this spring, given the deep pool of potential winners.

Any list of candidates is likely to include San Jose’s Dan Boyle, Washington’s Mike Green, Chicago’s Duncan Keith, Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom and Philadelphia’s Chris Pronger. Last year’s winner, Boston’s Zdeno Chara, is considered to be on a down year.

But why not Doughty? Much like when he was selected to Canada’s Olympic team, Doughty started out the Norris race as a long shot but seems to be gaining momentum, and has been mentioned on the short list of some of the sport’s top pundits.

Doughty entered Tuesday’s games ranked third in the NHL among scoring defensemen, with 53 points in 71 games. Doughty is also among defensive leaders in plus-minus and average ice time and is the top defenseman on a much-improved Kings team this season.

Bobby Orr, at age 19, is the youngest Norris winner in NHL history. Doughty is 20, but that didn’t stop Murray from making a strong endorsement for him.

"I'd throw his name in there," Murray said. "I threw his name in there for rookie of the year (last year) and he never made the final three, which is still mind-boggling to me. But his year has been spectacular through this season. The points, the key situations, the fact that the team has moved up in the standings and is starting to get some recognition around the league.

"He's an anchor for us back there, and I think, right now, he's comparable, number-wise and on the defensive part of the game, with plus-minus and minutes played. He has to have some consideration by the people who vote for it, for sure."

Rob Blake is the only Norris winner in Kings history, in 1997-98. (Click here for a history of the Kings winning NHL Awards). Three finalists will be announced before the trophy is awarded in Las Vegas in June.

A QUICK TRIP
Murray didn’t hesitate when asked about his goalie plan for the Kings’ road trip, which includes back-to-back games at Colorado (Wednesday) and St. Louis (Thursday).

"Quick and Quick," Murray said, referring, of course, to Jonathan Quick.

Quick has started 64 of the Kings’ 71 games this season, and is almost certain to break Felix Potvin’s franchise record of 71 appearances. Murray previously said he would consider starting backup Erik Ersberg in one of these two upcoming games. Click here for Kings All-Time goaltending stats.

"I have decided that I'm going to go with Quick in back-to-back here," Murray said. "Certainly I did think about making a change here. We still do have a tougher one coming up here, with that next trip. I'm going to have to have awareness to that one, because that's a very late night, arriving into Nashville. That's the one I'll take a look at.''

Next week, the Kings play at Minnesota on Monday and at Nashville on Tuesday.

NOT DONE FIGHTING
The Kings entered Tuesday seven points behind San Jose for fourth place in the Western Conference, making it quite likely that the top four playoff spots in the West will go – in no particular order – to Chicago, Phoenix, San Jose and Vancouver.

Murray, asked whether it mattered to him whether the Kings finished fifth, sixth, seventh or eighth in the conference – as long as they made the playoffs – wasn’t ready to declare his team out of the running for home-ice advantage in a potential first-round series.

"Well, you still want to keep pushing. You want to keep pushing for home ice," Murray said. "That's an important part of the playoff structure, I think. You get down to a seventh game, that last change, that match up, the defensive posture of your team is very important.

"So I'm not going to concede anything here. I want to keep going. I want to keep pushing this team up and keep going after the wins to get ourselves moved up in the standings.''

The Kings entered Tuesday in fifth place, tied in points (89) with Nashville but with two games in hand. The Predators play Tuesday night.

FAMILIAR FOE

The Kings beat the Colorado Avalanche 4-3 in overtime on Monday night, the first of three meetings between the Kings and Colorado among the Kings’ final 12 games.

The mini-series shifts to Denver for a game Wednesday night, and then the teams don’t meet again until the regular-season finale in Denver. On Monday, the teams played a hard-fought, fairly even games for 60-plus minutes, and after Tuesday’s practice, Murray talked about how the match up might change in Wednesday’s game.

"Probably line match ups will be a little bit of a different look, I think," Murray said. "(Matt) Duchene against Kopi, they might want to get away from that. It's hard to know what other coaches are going to think. We'll just have to play that by ear and adjust as the game gets going. I don't mind if we have a different look, with Kopi and Stastny.

"I even feel comfortable with Stolly out there. Whatever it might be, that would be fine on the lines. To me, the back end is very important. If we can get Scuderi and Doughty out there against their premier lines, then that would be the most important part."

TUCKER SUSPENDED
Colorado Avalanche forward Darcy Tucker has been suspended for one game, without pay, for making excessive physical contact on an icing play, in NHL game #1079 against the Los Angeles Kings, last night, the National Hockey League announced Tuesday...more. | see the hit
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