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Kings Notebook (Nov. 3)

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
EL SEGUNDO -- For the first time this season, STAPLES Center announcer David Courtney will definitely be able to say "your Los Angeles Kings" on Thursday night.

Because, finally, they will all be there.

Drew Doughty and Scott Parse are expected to return to the lineup against Tampa Bay, putting the Kings at full strength for the first time since before training camp started.

Doughty, who missed six games with concussion symptoms, will be back on defense with Willie Mitchell. Parse, who injured his groin in the first preseason game, will play left wing on the top line with center Anze Kopitar and right wing Dustin Brown.

For a Kings team off to an 8-3-0 start, it’s another dose of good news.

"It's good to have some choices now," coach Terry Murray said after Wednesday’s practice. "When we looked at our depth chart in the summertime and penciled players in places, we've got all of our top players now available to perform. Now we'll be able to get through some games and see where they all fit. Hopefully we find the right chemistry and keep things going in the right direction."

To make room for Doughty on the active roster, the Kings assigned rookie defenseman Jake Muzzin to Manchester of the AHL. Muzzin made the team largely because Matt Greene was unavailable at the start of the season due to summer shoulder surgery.

But while Doughty was out of the lineup, Greene returned, and now the Kings can go with that they intended from the start: Doughty paired with Mitchell, Rob Scuderi paired with Jack Johnson and Greene paired with Davis Drewiske.

"I think, with the guys we have in this locker room, the guys we have on defense in particular, we're one of the best D corps in the whole league," Doughty said. ``Right from our first D-man to our seventh D-man, we're so solid, and then obviously we have Muzz, who just got sent back, and he's a great player too.

"We're really comfortable with the unit we have here, the defensive corps, and we have great goaltending in the back too. Playing against this Tampa team, they have a lot of offense so we need to be solid back there."

Murray also had praise for his defense, particularly the way Johnson played while Doughty was out of the lineup, including Johnson’s seven points in those six games.

"No question you miss your top defenseman, but the good thing is that we came through it in pretty good shape,’’ Murray said. ``It shows a lot of character on the team. Guys stepped up and played very well in the games that he was out.

"I thought Jack Johnson, in particular, stepped up and took charge of the blue line and showed that he's a player that is going to be a pretty darn good player as we keep going with him here in the future. He did a lot of good things when Drew was out of the lineup, on power play and 5-on-5, on both sides of the puck."

As for Doughty, his success in taking a baseline test on Tuesday allowed him to be cleared for game action, and Doughty said he has been free of symptoms.

"I felt good," Doughty said. "I've felt good for a little while now. It was just making sure I was perfectly ready to play. You don't want to mess around with stuff like that, so now that I've been good for a number of days, I'm really looking forward to playing tomorrow."

FORWARD THINKING

Early in training camp, Murray had Parse penciled in as the second-line left winger, but Parse will play his first game on the first line with Kopitar and Brown. The reason? Murray doesn’t want to break up his high-scoring second line.

The second line of Ryan Smyth, Jarret Stoll and Justin Williams has been the KIngs’ high-production line thus far, while the Kings are still looking for the right fit up top.

Parse will become the Kings’ fourth first-line left-winger in 12 games, following Smyth, Andrei Loktionov and Brad Richardson.

"I'm not going to change the Stoll line," Murray said. "Ryan Smyth and Stoll and Williams have been a good line, and I'm not going to tamper with that. They're going to stay the same. Parse, to me, is a player who brings you some offensive play. He showed some spectacular play last year at times, some great goals. He needs to play on your top two lines, and that's where he's going."

Murray said he had not yet told the players who would be on the fourth line Thursday, although it seems fairly certain that Richardson will be one of the three. Kyle Clifford, Trevor Lewis, Brayden Schenn and Kevin Westgarth are the other contenders.

SOMETHING TO BUILD ON

Muzzin, a 21-year-old rookie, will get a chance to play extended minutes in Manchester. He had one assist, zero penalty minutes and a minus-1 rating in eight games with the Kings.

"(There was) a lot of positive stuff, a lot of things that he does very well," Murray said. "His gaps, his attitude, his gritty play. He had some big hits. We'll focus in on one or two areas that we want him to give a big push on. But in general, the overall game just needs to be…he just needs to play, needs to keep working at his game in the overall scheme of things. We like a lot of the stuff he's doing."

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