|Kings head coach Terry Murray is contemplating some lineup changes.
DALLAS - Game-to-game changes in the NHL are typically incremental. It’s usually one No. 6 defenseman for another, a fourth-line center to the third line, or the like.
Maybe not with the Kings on Monday. Coach Terry Murray, still steaming after Saturday night’s loss at Columbus, said Sunday that he was mulling over plans to make significant lineup changes before Monday night’s game against the Dallas Stars.
Might a veteran player get demoted from a prominent position, or even end up as a healthy scratch? Murray said he hadn’t decided what to do, and his decisions could be influenced by the health of the team. Approximately half the team has flu-like symptoms.
Still, Murray sounded like a coach ready for some change.
"I have some ideas that I’ve been floating around since the end of the game (Saturday) night," Murray said. "I’m not ready to make a decision on anything yet. If everyone is healthy and ready to go and feels 100 percent, then it’s a good decision I have to make.
"I’ve got some guys who are hopefully hungry and ready to step in and play at a high level. So I’ll find that out as we get through (Sunday) and get to the morning skate (Monday)."
Murray stressed that he wouldn’t severely punish a top player for one poor game, but a major topic of conversation Sunday was the poor pass made by Alexander Frolov, which led to Columbus’ game-tying goal in the final minute of the first period.
Frolov, with the puck in the offensive zone, eschewed a simple pass down low to Michal Handzus in favor or a riskier pass. Frolov’s pass was easily picked off by Columbus’ Jason Chimera, who scored, and the Kings never led again and lost 4-1.
"That’s an unacceptable play," Murray said. "That was a play he made at a critical part of the game, in the last minute of the period, and it took the emotion out of the team. I went into the (locker) room at the 10-minute mark (of the intermission) and it was silent. You could hear a pin drop in there. Guys were down."
Murray added, "Zeus is standing below the goal line. He’s just waiting for the puck to get cycled, so he can maintain possession of it. Those kinds of plays, I know they happen, but if you want to become a good team, a playoff team, those things cannot happen."
Frolov is one of the players suffering from flu symptoms, but in a brief postgame interview Saturday, he said, "It doesn’t really matter. I still have to play better." A LITTLE R&R
The Kings had no practice or meetings Sunday, but the medical staff kept close tabs on the players who have suffered from flu symptoms in previous days. Otherwise, players were encouraged to "rest, stay in their rooms, get some room service," Murray said.
Since the virus seemed to be spreading quickly through the team, Kings management bought extra rooms at the Dallas-area hotel so that almost every player could have an individual room. GOAL DROUGHT
Scoring two goals per game is acceptable only when a team gives up one, or none.
So it’s no surprise that the Kings have fallen to 2-3 on this road trip, as they have totaled nine goals in five games and have yet to score more than two goals in a road game.
Stats suggest the offense should be there - the Kings have outshot their opponents in two of the last three games - but it’s not. For the season, the Kings are averaging three goals per game, which is tied for 15th in the league.
"We have to go after it harder," Murray said. "If we’re not making the pretty plays, then we have to get really dug in and get to the areas that, we’re going to have to find a way to get it done in those places. But we’ve got to score, obviously. We’ve got to dig in. Our power play has taken a step backward on us now. Our entries are not as crisp as what they were in the first four games, and the offensive-zone play is not quite the same.
"I think I have to factor in the flu situation there, with our guys the last couple games. Some of the skill guys are just a little under the weather in that area, but you’ve got to find a way to get it done in a critical point in the game."