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Kings Notebook (Nov. 12)

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
EL SEGUNDO -- The Kings sat atop the Western Conference standings on Friday largely because they’re the league’s top team in a key area: penalty killing.

The Kings have killed 91.5 percent of their penalties this season, including 17 in a row, and they’re the only team not to allow a power-play goal at home this season.

Despite being without strong penalty-killers Willie Mitchell (broken wrist) and Alexei Ponikarovsky (broken finger) on Thursday, the Kings killed all five Dallas power plays, including a brief 5-on-3 advantage in the third period of a tight game.

In 2008-09, the Kings finished seventh in the league in penalty-kill efficiency (82.9 percent). Last season, after a horrendous first few games, they finished 20th (80.3).

The perfection on the penalty kill can’t last forever -- and Saturday’s opponent, the New York Islanders, have a top-10 power play this season -- but coach Terry Murray said he is pleased with the mindset his players bring to the penalty kill.

"We're now into year three of putting a whole lot of pride into the special teams part of the game, in particular talking about the penalty kill," Murray said. ``To me, that's system, that's pride and that's hard work and sacrifice. There's a lot of guys who are going the extra two feet to block a shot, to sacrifice themselves.

"Our goaltending last night, in particular, was outstanding. That's the little bit of swagger we're talking about, 5-on-5. You get into those special-teams situations and the guys really start to buy in, big time. They play hard for each other and good things will happen for you. That's basically what is taking place right now."

STAYING ON GUARD

STAPLES Center fell a bit hushed in the third period Thursday night when Drew Doughty was slow to get up after a big hit in the corner from Dallas’ Adam Burish.

Doughty recently returned to action from a concussion, and the hit from Burish caused Doughty’s head to hit the glass and his helmet to come off. Doughty initially grabbed at his head, but skated off the ice shortly thereafter with only a minor cut.

Doughty returned for the ensuing power play and was back at practice Friday, apparently feeling no ill effects from the hit.

"I just got a scratch on my face, but besides that, I'm fine," Doughty said. "It was an unfortunate play, but I'm fine. I felt pretty good right after the hit. I stayed down there, but right after I felt fine. I kind of knew right away that it was nothing serious."

Since the concussion, and at the strong recommendation of the Kings’ training staff, Doughty has also started wearing a mouth guard. Studies have shown that the mouth guards might reduce the chances of players sustaining concussions.

"The team is making sure, at all times, that I've got that in,’’ Doughty said. ``It's a good thing to have it in, for sure."

READY FOR BATTLE

Two of the Kings’ past three games -- against Tampa Bay and Dallas -- have been highly physical affairs. The Kings and Stars totaled 91 penalty minutes Thursday night, including four fights, but Murray rejected the idea that teams were trying to make a statement against the first-place Kings through physical play.

"It's just playing hockey," Murray said. "It's a very competitive game, and when you start to play division games, like we did last night, you're going to have contact, you're going to have intensity and a real compete attitude. That brings the best out of everybody, I think.

"It makes for an exciting game to watch for the fans, and you see a lot of good things from hockey players. You see who wants to dig in and go the extra five feet in order to pay that price to get things done. To me, it really says a lot about the character of your locker room, and now you start to see players playing hard for each other. That's a good sign."

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