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by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
The Kings road trip has helped Randy Jones get to know his new teammates.

SUNRISE, Fla. - Long NHL road trips can be tiring for players, but they also present a good opportunity for teammates to bond and develop tighter relationships.

To that extent, this five-game, nine-day road trip, which ends for the Kings tonight against the Florida Panthers, couldn’t have come at a better time for Randy Jones.

Jones, a 28-year-old defenseman claimed off waivers from Philadelphia on Oct. 29, didn’t know many of his new Kings teammates upon his arrival and had the tough task of learning new personalities once the season was already well underway.

Jones got a few days to acclimate himself with Southern California, then appreciated the chance to go on the road and get closer to teammates. Jones will play in his fourth game with the Kings tonight, and partner with Drew Doughty.

"When you're at home, sometimes after you leave the rink you kind of split off a little bit, and spend time with your families," Jones said, "but on a road trip like this, when you're new to a team, it's always a good feeling to get to know the guys a little more. You go to the meals and all that. It's been fun, and hopefully we can finish it off with a `W."’

With Rob Scuderi out of the lineup due to a lower-body injury, Jones will draw the high-profile assignment of partnering with Doughty. It brings together two strong puck-moving defensemen who have the ability to jump up into plays.

Doughty enters the game fifth in the NHL in scoring among defensemen, with 16 points (four goals, 12 assists) in 21 games, but he and Jones can’t forget the other end of the ice.

"You have to rely on each other," Jones said. "When one guy is jumping up, you can't have the other guy jumping up as well. I think it will be a good combo. We both know the game pretty well and we can read plays and know when it's a smart time to jump up into a play and take a risk, and at other times sit back and let the play come at us. I'm excited to play with him, and I'm looking forward to it tonight."

SCUDERI UPDATE
Scuderi, who left Saturday’s game against Tampa Bay in the first period with a lower-body injury, will miss tonight’s game. Davis Drewiske, a healthy scratch on Saturday, returns to the lineup to partner with Matt Greene, while Sean O’Donnell partners with Jack Johnson....lineup

Kings coach Terry Murray said he thinks Scuderi is "going to be real close to being back in the lineup when we get home against the Flyers" on Wednesday night.

Scuderi had an even rating, and only six penalty minutes, in 21 games this season, and has served as a steadying presence at even strength and on the penalty kill.

"Missing Scuderi takes away from our solid defensive play," Murray said. "That's the game that he brings, and he's so good at it. He excels at the checking part of the game, especially vs. the rush. I think he's got great range, a great stick, he breaks up a lot of plays as they come through the middle of the ice and into our D zone.

"So we're just going to have to tighten up as a group. It gives another player an opportunity to get back in, but as a group we've got to just tighten up a little bit."

HEADING HOME
Since the start of the season, the Kings have spent 21 of 44 nights in hotels. Upon their arrival in Los Angeles after tonight’s game, they’ll be able to spend seven consecutive days at home, the longest stretch of the season so far.

Still, Murray said he wasn’t concerned about his players looking ahead to enjoying the comforts of home, rather than properly preparing for the Panthers.

The Kings are 7-5-1 on the road this season, and 2-2-0 so far on this trip.

"I think the message was sent to us in Atlanta," Murray said of the Kings’ 7-0 loss on Friday. "I'm hoping that that's not that far away, that we're not losing sight of what happened there. There was awareness brought to this game yesterday, in our team meeting, and we've got a great leadership group.

"There's veteran guys, there are young guys there now, and they all bring it together. They talk about these things and we'll be ready to play here tonight, to finish this thing off the right way."
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