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Kings Notebook (Nov. 29)

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
The reunion of the Kings top line of Anze Kopitar, Justin Williams and Ryan Smyth that experienced so much success early in the season, is one step closer with Smyth taking the ice today for the first time since Nov. 15.

Anze Kopitar opened the door that leads to the Kings' practice-rink ice and spotted the tall, lanky guy in the yellow jersey passing pucks to his Kings teammates.

"There he is," Kopitar said.

Ryan Smyth, that is, who got on the ice Sunday morning for the first time since he suffered an undisclosed upper-body injury in a Nov. 16 game at Florida. Smyth's estimated return is still a little more than two weeks away, but he has been cleared to participate in non-practice conditioning skates.

Smyth did a bit more Sunday, as he fed pucks to teammates as they skated in pre-practice warmups. Coach Terry Murray said Smyth would be encouraged to skate as often as he could.

"A positive sign, but we're not getting excited right now," Murray said. "We know he's a ways away. He's got the green light to push it now, on the conditioning side of it."

The Kings' top line has suffered in Smyth's absence, with just one goal in five games. Smyth is still the Kings' second-leading scorer, with 23 points in 22 games.

Defenseman Matt Greene did not practice Sunday, in what Murray referred to as a "therapy day." Rob Scuderi (lower-body injury) did skate and is possible to play Tuesday at Anaheim.

Andrei Loktionov, who suffered a shoulder injury in his NHL debut Wednesday in Edmonton, will soon undergo surgery to repair a torn capsule in his shoulder, general manager Dean Lombardi said.

Loktionov is expected to be out of action for approximately four months, the same timetable for minor-league defenseman Thomas Hickey, who will also soon undergo shoulder surgery.

Murray seems increasingly confident in the play of fourth-line rookie winger Brandon Segal, whose ice time is increasing by the game.

Segal made his Kings debut Wednesday and played 5 minutes, 29 seconds. The next night, in Vancouver, Segal played 6:34. In Saturday's victory over Chicago, he played 8:20.

Murray cited strong play by the fourth line in general, but in particular had praise for Segal, who was signed as a free agent this summer. Segal played two games for the Tampa Bay Lightning last season and also made the Anaheim Ducks' roster out of training camp two seasons ago but didn't appear in a game.

"He's better than what I thought he would be, quite honestly," Murray said. "He has played well. He has been here before. He's been through Tampa and Anaheim and knows what it's all about. Again, just to repeat what I have said, if he can just keep his mind set on, `This is what I am in this league, and this is how I need to contribute,' and not think that he should be on a top line, then everything will work out really well.

"He's got bulk, he's got size, he's got a good head on his shoulders, he makes the right decision with the puck and it allows me, on a pretty consistent basis, to have the confidence to play them later in the game."

One day after beating the Chicago Blackhawks, one of the top teams in the NHL, Murray came away pleased with his team's effort, particularly in terms of establishing physical play.

The Kings out-hit Chicago 41-25 in the game, and Dustin Brown had a season-high nine hits.

"That's a good team that we played yesterday, one of the best teams in the league, with their skill level," Murray said. "Their back end is tremendous. What we talked about before the game, in the team meeting, was that we needed to go into that game with a real checking mentality, and then with a scoring attitude. I thought the checking part of it was tremendous.

"You have to really try to shut down the middle of the ice against that team, because they come with so much speed. We had to force chip-ins so that we could recover. We did a great job, right from the very start. The attitude is what it's all about when you play those guys, and it was great."
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