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by Staff Writer / Los Angeles Kings
The Kings skated at the Toyota Sports Center, their first practice since Saturday’s 5-3 win over St. Louis that brought the Kings record to 5-6-2. The biggest story of the day was Erik Ersberg being tabbed to start vs. Dallas on Tuesday and Jack Johnson skating for the first time since his shoulder injury suffered on Oct. 12, prior to practice.

ERSBERG TABBED TO START: Ersberg, the first Swedish goaltender in Kings history, is 2-1-1 with a 1.95 goals-against average and .904 save percentage in five appearances this season and 2-0-1 over the last three games, will start Tuesday vs. Dallas. The Kings are 8-5-3 when Ersberg starts a game, dating back to last season. The Kings have played nine one-goal games (and five two-goal games) during Ersberg’s 19 career appearances.

“It is just an opportunity for Ersberg to come out and play and keep playing well,” Head Coach Terry Murray said. “What we are trying to do is to win games. He came up big vs. St. Louis and had a huge second period with some big saves.

“It is very important for a young hockey club to get some wins under their belt.”

Ersberg has teamed with Jason LaBarbera, to help the Kings improve in goals allowed. Last season, Los Angeles ranked 28th in the NHL, this season, they are fourth in the Western Conference.

Minnesota 28
Chicago 32
Phoenix 32
Note: This does not include game-deciding shootout goals

He has struggled against Dallas, however, starting against the Stars twice with different results, falling to Dallas, 7-2 and being pulled after the second period in which he surrendered four goals, on March 29 at Dallas. He also earned a win vs. the Stars on March 22, stopping 25-of-27 in the Kings’ 4-2 win at STAPLES Center. All totaled, he has stopped 45-of-52 (.865 SV%) vs. the Stars with a 4.20 GAA in two starts.

JOHNSON HITS THE ICE: Out since the second game of the season and originally expected to miss 2-3 months after undergoing shoulder surgery, Johnson hit the ice for a pre-practice skate with former King forward and current Radio Color Analyst Daryl Evans.

KINGS IMPROVE IN FACE OFF CIRCLE: Last season, the Kings finished 27th in faceoff percentage, winning 47.8 percent of their draws. This year the team ranks eighth at 52.3 percent. One of the reasons for the improvement can be traced to the acquisition of Jarret Stoll, one of the league’s best on the draw, and the improved health of Michal Handzus.

“The addition that Dean made with Stoll was a good addition, he is good on the faceoff and Handzus is healthy,” Murray said when asked about the team's improvement on the draw. “He just wasn’t healthy a lot of the year. He is where I have seen him before and doing the things he can do on the faceoff. “

Stoll leads the Kings and is 10th in the NHL winning 100-of-175 faceoffs (57 percent), while Handzus is second on the club, 30th in the NHL, winning 122-of-239 (53%).  Kopitar is third, having won 106-of-213 (49.8%).

“Three of our guys are big men (Boyle, Handzus and Kopitar) and can overpower a lot of center ice men in most situations and Stolly is really good he has a quick stick, he reads and reacts when the puck is dropped,” Murray said. “It is not anything magical that we did as a coaching staff, it is just players digging in and excelling in an important part of the game.”

“If you win the faceoff, you start with possession and you can start making plays,” Kopitar said. “It really helps a lot, especially winning a faceoff when on the power play in their zone. You want to set up the power play as soon as you can.”

Handzus has been especially dominant winning 30-of-46 faceoffs on the power play and the team has won 73-of-126 (57 percent) witht he man advantage.

Below is a look at the top teams in faceoff percentage this season.

San Jose 54.5%
Detroit 54.2%
Colorado 53.1%
Nashville 52.8%
Boston 52.8%
Pittsburgh 52.8%
Washington 52.6%
KINGS 52.3%

WHO’S HOT: Kopitar has four points (1-3=4) in the last two games and leads the Kings with 11 points and nine assists (2-9=11). His three-point night (1-2=3) Nov. 8 vs. St. Louis was the 14th of his career (13 three-point games, one four-point game)…Dustin Brown has three points in his last two games (2-1=3) and shares the club lead (with Alexander Frolov) with five goals overall. Brown also has four multi-point games this season (the Kings are 4-0-0 in those games)…Drew Doughty leads all rookies with 21:56 average time-on-ice. He’s tied for second among NHL rookies with a plus-6 rating (which leads the Kings). He has played at least 20 minutes in 10 of 13 games this season (25-plus minutes in three games). Doughty has four points in the last two games (1-3=4). …Stoll needs 1 game played for 300 in the NHL

ROYAL REBOUND ANNIVERSARY: Monday marked the one-year anniversary of the Kings’ “Royal Rebound” against the Stars (Nov. 10, 2007). The Kings set a club record with their 6-5 come-from-behind overtime win against Dallas that night. Los Angeles, trailing 4-0 with 7:15 remaining in the third period, went on to score five goals in a 5:07 span (the fastest five goals in franchise history). Dallas came back to tie the game in the waning moments of the third, but Kopitar won it in overtime.

“I think more than anything, it gives us belief that we can come back,” Kopitar said. “It doesn’t matter how far you are down, you keep working hard, good things can happen. That was a pretty wild game, the crowd was crazy, it was nuts.

“That is a fun game to look back on.”

A LOOK BACK AT HEXTALL: The Philadlephia Flyers Website took a look back at Kings Assistant GM Ron Hextall's first game...Take a look back and relive the memories of one of Hockey All-Time greats.

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