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Kings Notebook (Oct. 15)

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
EL SEGUNDO -- It’s accurate to refer to Alexei Ponikarovsky, Michal Handzus and Wayne Simmonds as the Kings’ ``third line,’’ but in some ways it’s the most important.

The Kings not only count on the Handzus line to be their ``shutdown’’ line, to consistently take on the opposing team’s top forwards, but they also count on the line for secondary scoring, given that all three players have 20-goal potential.

The two-way responsibility is a big one for those three players, and so far, Kings coach Terry Murray has found himself looking for more from Simmonds and Ponikarovsky.

Simmonds, a third-year player well-known for his energy and aggressiveness, has not recorded a point this season and has only four shots on goal in three games.

Ponikarovsky, signed to a one-year contract in July, also does not have a point and has more penalties (three) than shots on goal (two) so far this season.

After Friday’s morning skate, Murray wasn’t shy in saying what he expects from both.

``I need Simmer to be a better player than what he is right now,’’ Murray said. ``We've had a couple of meetings, he and I, and the assistant coaches have sat down and reviewed some video. The most important thing for him is to get his feet going, get skating better, on a more consistent basis. When he's playing that straight-line game with an edge, with grit and battling along the boards, that's the best kind of player.

``Right now, he seems to be a little hesitant in his game, and as a result you get caught in between and it looks real bad. I'm hoping for a big effort tonight on that side of it. That's the focus that we want him to go into this game with. Simply move your feet, stay on top of it, and I think other things will fall into place.’’

Murray downplayed the idea that Simmonds might need some time to develop some chemistry with Ponikarovsky, and the impact that might be having on Simmonds’ game.

``I want the line to be better,’’ Murray said. ``I think Poni has got some habits there that we're addressing with him, that we want to see. With the puck, we want him to have the puck longer. He's a big guy that can protect the puck on the cycle, hold onto it for four- or five-second stretches and work the opponent down deep in the offensive zone.

``That was the strength of that line last year, but it is not related to Simmer and what we just talked about. That's on him. That's the focus that he needs to put into it, as an individual, and get himself on track.’’

As part of ``Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Night,’’ players will take the ice for warmups tonight using sticks wrapped in pink tape.

Players, coaches and broadcasters will also use pink-themed apparel, and some of the sticks, as well as a game-worn helmet, will be auctioned to benefit Hockey Fights Cancer. Special keychains will also be sold to benefit the foundation.

Murray said Matt Greene, who is recovering from July shoulder surgery and a recent bout with ``lace bite’’ on his feet, could be back on the ice for Sunday’s practice.

The timetable had been set for Greene to return at the end of this month. Murray said Greene was out of town this week to attend a friend’s funeral and was scheduled to return to Los Angeles on Friday.

Scott Parse remains off the ice. Parse injured his groin in a Sept. 22 preseason game and has not been on the ice since he attempted to skate on Oct. 6.

``I don't have any news, really, on Parse,’’ Murray said. ``He still has an issue, and he's trying to work through it, trying to get some results, trying to come to a solution for this. That's just going to take a little more time. … It's a concern now. So we'll see how it goes in the next week. He did have a doctor's appointment. The advice from the doctor was, `Let's take a week of rest and then we'll see where it is after that.'’’
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