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Kings Notebook (Nov. 19)

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
BUFFALO -- At this rate, Dwight King might be in the Hockey Hall of Fame by the end of the month.

Three days after he was called up from the AHL, and two days after he made his NHL debut on the Kings' third line, King learned this morning that he will be skating on the first line when the KIngs take on the Buffalo Sabres at HSBC Arena.

King will swap lineup spots with Brad Richardson, with King skating beside center Anze Kopitar and right winger Dustin Brown. Richardson will return to the third-line role he skated in last week, alongside center Michal Handzus and right winger Wayne Simmonds.

``It was a big surprise today when I walked in and saw the lineup, but it's good,'' King said. ``I think it doesn't change what I do. Those are both obviously very skilled guys, so I'm just going to go out there and work hard and hopefully create a little more space for them, so they can do what they're so good at. I'll just kind of go with it, and take my opportunity when I can.''

King has NHL-caliber size -- he's listed at 6-foot-3, 227 pounds -- and also showed a scoring touch in the AHL, as he was second on the Manchester Monarchs in points at the time of his call-up.

King becomes the fifth player to start a game as the Kings' first-line left winger, following Ryan Smyth (two games), Andrei Loktionov (five), Richardson (five) and Scott Parse (five). Loktionov is back in the AHL and Parse is scheduled to undergo hip surgery next week.

Now the door is open for King, who earned solid reviews in his debut Wednesday.

``I'm going to start with that,'' coach Terry Murray said. ``First of all, I liked what he did with Handzus. His game in the offensive zone was good. He's a big guy who can get pucks stopped up and hold onto pucks down below the hash marks in the offensive zone. I thought the Kopi line was in and out too often. We need to get more of that puck stopped, and recovering pucks and get some kind of reward off the work that you do to get the puck down there.

``Our breakouts, our transition, I liked in our game, but the opportunity to have more time spent in the offensive zone needs to be more of a priority for us. It's not a lack of effort. It's just a little of looking for a hit, or pressuring, or doing the right thing. Sticks on pucks, get it stopped, to buy time for your linemate to get there for support. It's just not long enough, and they were caught in between on that line. So I'm going to give Kinger a look, and hopefully it works out fine.''

The Kings will go with two other changes tonight. Jonathan Bernier will start in goal -- Jonathan Quick will start tomorrow against Boston -- and Peter Harrold will replace Jake Muzzin on defense.

In the previous game, Muzzin had replaced Harrold, but Muzzin played only slightly over nine minutes against Columbus and, in Murray's estimation, the rookie had a rough night.

``I just thought Muzzin had a tough game the other night,'' Murray said. ``He seemed to be caught in between. He's a young guy that has been playing at a very good level of us, and we're happy with all of the things he has done. It's just one of those games that just didn't work out the way we had seen, so we'll give him time to step back.''

Jonathan Bernier will start tonight in Buffalo and close to home in Montreal on Wednesday.  Jonathan Quick will enjoy a homecoming start vs. Boston tomorrow.
Murray's handling of the road trip will allow both goalies to play fairly close to home.

Quick will start in Boston, which is approximately 150 miles northeast of his hometown of Milford, Conn., while Bernier will start in Montreal, which is less than a half-hour drive from his hometown of Laval, Quebec.

Bernier started in Boston last season, but Bernier will get to play professionally in Quebec for the first time.

``It's going to be a good challenge for me,'' Bernier said. ``A lot of family is going to be in, and I've heard it's a loud building. I've been in that building, but on the ice I've heard it's a great building to play in, so if I do go in, I'll be excited to play, for sure.''

Murray said he wasn't concerned about the pressure Bernier would feel, playing so close to home.

``Good,'' Murray said. ``You've got to learn how to handle it. That's the nature of our game. There is responsibility, there is pressure, there are big games, and that's part of the process of growing up and becoming a top pro, is how you handle that stuff emotionally.''

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