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Kopitar's Surgery As Successful As New Lineup

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
VANCOUVER -- Kings center Anze Kopitar underwent ``successful surgery'' on Wednesday to repair the torn ligaments in his right ankle, the team said Wednesday.

Kopitar suffered his injury in the second period of Saturday's game against Colorado and will not play again this season. The Kings hope that Kopitar will be able to begin off-ice rehab work shortly, but he's unlikely to return to the ice until mid-summer at the earliest.

At least for one night, the Kings showed there is life after injured stars.

In their first game with both Kopitar and Justin Williams (dislocated shoulder) out of the lineup, the Kings did a solid job in beating Edmonton on Tuesday night to remain in fifth place in the Western Conference.

Anze Kopitar's ankle surgery was successful on Wednesday.
The Kings have six games remaining in their regular season before a likely playoff appearance and, league-wide, some pundits are talking -- some in louder voices than others -- about the Kings' chances for playoff success having vanished with the injuries.

After practice Wednesday, Kings coach Terry Murray didn't want to hear any of that.

``I don't think that would be the right thing to say,'' Murray said. ``I think it would be very ignorant to talk about being `done,' when we've got a very good group of guys in a solid locker room. That's what we're going to rely on.''

A couple times in the past few days, Murray has used the term ``foxhole mentality'' to describe the attitude he wants the Kings to have going forward. Murray said he was pleased with the team's response in Tuesday's 2-0 victory over Edmonton

``I think everybody came to the realization that you've got to play hard with what you've got,'' Murray said. ``That's the bottom line. There's no call-ups, there's no trades, the deadline has gone by. This is the group that's in here, that needs to play the game the right way, and that's what we did (against the Oilers).''

Of course, it's likely that truer tests are ahead. The Oilers are hobbled, struggling to score and sitting in last place in the conference. By contrast, tomorrow's opponent, Vancouver, is first in the conference and has a an 11-1-0 record in its last 12 games.

The Kings have beaten the Canucks in two of three meetings this season, but the Canucks had a resounding 3-1 victory over the Kings in their last meeting, on March 5.

The Canucks clinched their top spot in the Western Conference with their victory over Nashville on Tuesday night, and the Canucks have allowed only one goal in each of their last four games. They're returning home after a 4-0-0 road trip.

``Vancouver is the number-one team in the NHL,'' Murray said. ``It will be a hard test for us. There's no question, they're a team that can play the game in many different ways and win in many different ways. We have to be concerned about our own game, play the right way, and you give yourself the opportunity to win a game by doing things right for the 60 minutes.

As planned, Jonathan Quick is scheduled to get the start in goal against the Canucks on Thursday. The Kings won't make any changes up front -- they don't have any healthy spare forwards -- and defensemen Davis Drewiske and Peter Harrold are expected to be healthy scratches again.

It's safe to say that Trevor Lewis' debut as the Kings' second-line center went well.

Lewis assisted on both Kings goals Tuesday night -- both were scored by Dustin Brown -- and had a strong two-way game that included his regular complement of penalty-kill time. Lewis had previously spent most of the season as the Kings'
fourth-line center.

``I think Trevor Lewis is probably sitting in the dressing room saying, `Why didn't you have me here at the start of the year, coach? What was wrong with you?''' Murray said with a laugh. ``He played really well. Lewis had a very good game. It's an opportunity for him to play in a different look and to be not only a checking, defensive player but to add to his repertoire, and he showed that last night, especially on the first goal.

``That was an excellent play, finding Brown off the weak-side post, passing the puck right through traffic on the tape. He played an excellent game on the checking part of it. So he did what we would like to see, and hopefully he can just continue to push his game up.''

The Kings went 0-for-4 on the power play on Wednesday but did generate nine shots on goal with the man advantage. Without both Kopitar and Williams, two power-play stalwarts, the Kings didn't make significant changes to power-play personnel.

Oscar Moller previously replaced Williams, Ryan Smyth essentially placed Kopitar and the unit made up of Jarret Stoll, Alec Martinez, Michal Handzus, Brown and Alexei Ponikarovsky has essentially become the Kings' first power-play unit.

``The one group, with Handzus and with Martinez on the back end and Stoll on the back end, that's the same,'' Murray said. ``That's a group that has been playing very well on the power play, and moving the puck extremely well. Martinez, to me, has got the shot mentality that you want from all of your defensemen. On the other group, you're just looking to give your players an opportunity.

``The guy that's getting the opportunity is Ryan Smyth, who has been on the power play pretty much his whole career. He's just going to get back in there on a regular basis and do the things he's been doing. You're just going through your structure, your system play, moving the puck, letting it do a lot of the work with a shot mentality.

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