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Kings Notebook (Nov. 9)

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
EL SEGUNDO -- It wasn't a good weekend for the Kings' hands.

Coming out of Saturday's victory over Nashville, the Kings learned that defenseman Willie Mitchell suffered a broken wrist and forward Alexei Ponikarovsky broke a finger.

Neither player is expected to need surgery, but Mitchell is expected to miss approximately 4 to 6 weeks and Ponikarovsky is expected to miss approximately four weeks. On Tuesday, the Kings called up defenseman Jake Muzzin from Manchester of the AHL and put Mitchell on injured reserve.

"We'll make adjustments," coach Terry Murray said after Tuesday's practice. "It's a competitive game, and when you play hard, stuff happens in a game, injuries happen."

Heading into Thursday's home game against Dallas, the Kings' top two lines are expected to remain the same and Brad Richardson is expected to fill Ponikarovsky's spot on the third line, alongside Michal Handzus and Wayne Simmonds.

On the fourth line, the Kings have a decision to make. Kyle Clifford has played nine games, and before he plays his 10th, the Kings must decide whether to return him to his junior team or keep him on the NHL roster and use a year of his entry-level contract.

Murray said that the Kings have not reached an official decision on whether to keep Clifford, but said he's proceeding as though Clifford will play Thursday. Trevor Lewis, Brayden Schenn and Kevin Westgarth are the Kings' other fourth-line options.

"Right now I'm planning on putting Clifford in the game against Dallas," Murray said. "That's the way it is right now, and I'll think about what I'm going to do in the middle of the ice, with Schenn and Lewis, unless I'm told differently or I have a different conversation."

On defense, Drew Doughty -- Mitchell's partner this season -- will be reunited with Rob Scuderi, after the two of them had a successful pairing last season. Murray said he had not yet decided what his other two defensive pairs would look like.


Mitchell and Ponikarovksy both suffered their injuries during Saturday's game. Mitchell left the game during the second period, but Ponikarovksy played the entire game and didn't appear to be in any discomfort. The injury was discovered after the game.

"He broke it in the first period," Murray said. "I'm not real sure how it happened, whether he jammed it or whether it was a blocked shot, but I know it did happen in the first period. Quite honestly, it didn't effect him. The adrenaline is going in a big game, and you're just playing. After the game, it's, `Ooh, that kind of hurts a little bit.' So he got it X-rayed and, bad luck. Two guys in one game like that, it's unfortunate."


Thursday's game will bring another new role for Richardson.

So far, in just 13 games this season, Richardson has been a first-line left winger, a fourth-line center, a second-line left winger and a fourth-line left winger.

Now, in game 14, he is expected to play left wing on the third line, a role that should feel fairly comfortable. The Kings look at their third line as a solid defensive "stopper" line, and Richardson is best known for his work ethic, skating and responsible play.

Richardson is a lineup regular for the Kings, even though he doesn't have a regular spot, and has three goals and one assist in 13 games this season.

"You have to have a player who is flexible and capable of moving to different positions," Murray said. `"That's just the way the game is here, today. With the distance we have between Manchester and here, with the (salary) cap, with the new-look game that we play, there's a need to have players coming out of the penalty kill, coming out of the power play, that can fill in on the center position for one shift or two shifts, or move to a wing. It's invaluable to have a player like Richardson who can adjust to those looks.

"As I said last year, with Peter Harrold it was play defense, play right wing, and I had him at center a little bit last year, on the fourth line. Those utility players are truly invaluable to have, for a coach. It might be hard for a player to feel that importance when he is moving around, from first to second to fourth line, but let me assure you -- and I do tell the players -- that their role on the team is very important."


The Kings intend to keep their first line of Scott Parse, Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown intact, and the jury is still out as to Parse's production on that line.

In Saturday's victory, Brown and Kopitar each had a goal. Parse had an assist in Saturday's game but has yet to record a shot on goal in either game. Parse suffered a groin injury during the first preseason game and missed almost all of training camp.

"Overall, his game has been pretty good in the first two games," Murray said of Parse. "Missing a lot of time, and getting back in the pace that we're playing at, I give him some pretty good credit for getting himself ready to play at that level. I think he's still kind of sorting it out, adjusting to the pace of the game and the play on that top line, and it will take some time. But overall, he has the ability and the skill, and I think it should come together fairly quickly."


The Kings are scheduled to practice Wednesday at 10 a.m. at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo.

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