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Kings Practice Report (April 16)

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
The Kings nearly won the game in OT when this shot skipped past Roberto Luongon and nearly into the Vancouver net.

VANCOUVER – Regardless of the outcome tomorrow, when the Kings face Vancouver in Game 2 of their first-round playoff series, there will be plenty of hockey remaining. The winner won’t be able to do much more than sleep well for one night.

If history repeats itself, though, the win could have deeper significance.

The Canucks will be looking to win the first two games at home. Last season, a team won the first two games at home in nine playoff series and ended up winning the series all but two. That was when Washington lost to Pittsburgh in the second round and Detroit lost to Pittsburgh in the Stanley Cup Finals.

On the other hand, the Kings will be looking to return to STAPLES Center on Monday night with the series at 1-1. Last season, four teams split the first two games of a series on the road. Those teams ended up winning the series three times.

"I always felt it was real important to go back playing at home with a split," Kings coach Terry Murray said after Friday’s practice. "It doesn't mean the end of the series or anything like that. There's still the two games we have at home, but it makes it much more comfortable if you can go back after splitting on the road.''

Coming off their 3-2 overtime loss to the Canucks in Game 1, the Kings held an optional skate Friday, with only six players on the ice, and Murray stressed the positives of a game in which the Kings nearly won with an overtime goal before they gave one up.

That said, coaches and players found plenty of room for improvement, and most of it centered around forechecking and the improved 5-on-5 play it can lead to.

In the third period of Game 1, the Kings succeeded little on the forecheck and got little offensive-zone time, and it showed in the numbers, as the Canucks outshot the Kings 13-2 in the third period.

The Kings seemed to get back to their game in overtime, when they recorded six shots in less than nine minutes, and they will need to bring that effort to Game 2.

"I think we've just got to have strong decisions through the neutral zone, and get it on the forecheck and create chances off that," Kings center Anze Kopitar said. "I think forechecking and the cycle game, those are two strengths of our game, and we've got to exploit them as much as we can and create scoring chances off that and just put more pucks to the net.

"We've got to get our forecheck game going. It's a big part, and obviously that's a big part of the 5-on-5 game. We certainly have to address that, and I think we'll be better in that part tomorrow."

LINEUP CHANGE?
NHL coaches typically get tight-lipped in the playoffs, and Murray declined to say whether he would be making any lineup changes for Game 2.

"I'm going to take a look at that," Murray said Friday afternoon. "We're going to go to dinner tonight, as a staff, and we'll talk it over and come up with the same lineup or make a change. I did like the stuff that Raitis brought to our game last night. I thought he got in on the forecheck. He had a good net presence. He had a great opportunity, actually, in the first period with Modin. So we'll take a look at it."

Raitis Ivanans, the Kings’ "enforcer," played 5 minutes, 48 seconds, so the Kings might look to a make a change on the fourth line or, perhaps, on defense. Randy Jones made the neutral-zone turnover that eventually led to Vancouver’s overtime goal.

NO SUSPENSION
The NHL declined to issue supplemental discipline to Vancouver’s Andrew Alberts, who received a five-minute boarding penalty and a game-misconduct penalty for his second-period hit on Kings winger Brad Richardson.

Richardson received a cut above his right eye but returned to the game.

"I obviously can't protect myself there, because I was going for the puck," Richardson said of the hit. "I saw the replay and it's not a clean hit. I think it was the right call.''

SOME SATISFACTION
It’s all but impossible to spend time in one of the two locker rooms, during media availability, and not hear the name "Sedin" or the word "twins."

Henrik and Daniel Sedin are the major topics of discussion in town, and they didn’t disappoint in Game 1, as Daniel had one goal and one assist and Henrik had two assists, including the pass that led to Mikael Samuelsson’s overtime goal.

The twins played a part in each of Vancouver’s three goals, but Murray said he wasn’t particularly distressed about his team’s effort against the Sedins.

"Those goals, one is a power-play goal and the other two are just managing the puck better," Murray said. "We're cycling the puck up on the goal in the second period. Justin Williams has the puck and he brings it to the defenseman and tries to make a little handoff play, and the puck is a bouncing puck. It hits the shaft of a stick and away they go.

"Same thing in the overtime. We had the puck in the right place at the right time, trying to do the right things in the offensive zone, and he comes out of the zone and instead of getting it right back deep again, to take a delayed offside and not put that kind of pressure on yourself by taking it into the neutral zone. So both goals, in my mind, are decisions that we could have made better with the puck. The other parts of the game, I thought, were pretty good. We did OK against the top line in the league."
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