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Kings Prepare for Opener Saturday

by Andrew Howard / Los Angeles Kings
'Super utility player' Peter Harrold moved back to defense at practice Wednesday.
Anze Kopitar admitted that in his four years with the Los Angeles Kings, he has never felt this kind of energy in the locker room.

Four days before the Kings open the 2009-10 season at STAPLES Center against the Phoenix Coyotes, Kopitar commented on how a nice mix of young players and veterans has made for a locker room the likes of which he has yet to see.

"I think its a great mix from the young guys to the old guys," Kopitar said. "Like I said, hopefully we can show that on the ice, hopefully we can bring that chemistry and be ready to go."

With the season opener just around the corner, the structure and attitude of the Kings has started to take shape. The team took the ice at Wednesday at Toyota Sports Center with the expected regular season lineup in place for what coach Terry Murray described as a great effort.

At practice Wednesday, there were no changes to the top three lines on offense.

The first line consists of Kopitar at center, Ryan Smyth at left wing and Justin Williams at right wing.

The second line is Teddy Purcell at left wing, Jarret Stoll at center and Dustin Brown at right wing.

The third line is Alexander Frolov at left wing, Michal Handzus at center, and Wayne Simmonds at right wing, who led the Kings in goals scored in the pre-season with five.

There were changes made to the fourth line with Peter Harrold moving from forward to defenseman. In his place, Brad Richardson played with Raitis Ivanans and Trevor Lewis.

Murray referred to Harrold as a "super utility" player and praised his versatility in being able to play two forward positions and defenseman, as well as his ability on power plays and penalty killing.

"Those guys are invaluable to me," Murray said.

Harrold played much of last season split between the blue line and playing on the fourth-line wing. He has added a center-iceman role to his bag of tricks this off-season and has spent all of Training Camp playing center on the Kings fourth line.

Murray added that with Sean O'Donnell serving a suspension for the first two regular season games, he wanted to give Harrold quality practice time as a defenseman.

Harrold appeared in 69 games with Los Angeles a year ago, scoring 4-8=12 with a minus-13 rating and 28 PIMs.

At practice on Tuesday, there was a change made to the defensive pairings.

Davis Drewiske moved up to the top pair with Drew Doughty, while rookie Alec Martinez moved to the third pair to play with Matt Greene.

The second duo remains in tact and consists of Jack Johnson and Rob Scuderi.

Drewiske played with Greene throughout the pre-season, but Murray was not pleased with the results.

"Quite candidly, the pair that I used throughout the exhibition games with Greene and Drewiske have just had a little bit of a difficult time there in some situations that I feel would get cleaned up if we separated them," Murray said. "It's a pair I think can work. They're big guys, big bodies, shut-down pair. As a philosophy, as a coach, for me I always like to have the big defending defenseman paired with a player who has maybe a little more mobility and puck-skill, to be able to carry the puck at different times."

Smyth, who was traded to the Kings from the Colorado Avalanche in July, likes what he has seen from his new team thus far.

"I think what makes it is the guys here," Smyth said. "The young guys, they make the locker room feel comfortable. Obviously the older guys (are here) which is great but it's obviously nice to come in and feel welcome."

With the start of the regular season just four days away, Smyth said its important for the Kings to get off to a fast start if they want to make good on their post-season aspirations.

"Just get off to a good start and just give ourselves a chance," Smyth said. "Obviously everybody wants to make the playoffs and succeed to the final prize. But it takes a big team effort to get into the postseason and well see what happens from there."

Former two-time LA Kings captain Rob Blake was named captain of the Kings Pacific Division rival San Jose Sharks on Wednesday. (Kings Captain History).

“He has experience captaining a team and will give us everything he has,” Sharks head coach Todd McLellan told “He will hold his teammates to the highest standard.”

Blake served as Kings captain from 1996-97 to 2000-01, when he was dealt to the Colorado Avalanche. Former Kings head coach Marc Crawford tabbed Blake as Captain for the 2007-08 season, after which, Blake signed with San Jose.

"It is a tremendous honor,” Blake. “It will take the whole group. With the players we have here, the job will be easier.”

Blake has now captained two different teams in the NHL, did you know that there have only been three players in NHL history that have been captains for THREE teams, two of which have been Kings? Terry Ruskowski captained the Blackhawks, Kings and Penguins; Wayne Gretzky Captained the Oilers, Kings and Blues and Mark Messier captained the Oilers, Rangers and Canucks.

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