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More Line Changes for Tonight

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
Which one is the Kings' second line? Is it the one centered by Jarret Stoll, with top goal-scorer Dustin Brown? The one with frequent top-six player Brad Richardson? The one with veteran 20-goal scorers Michal Handzus and Alexei Ponikarovsky?

The Kings hope that question is difficult for opponents to answer as well.

Scoring has been an issue at times for the Kings this season, so they're in search of some balance, particularly with winger Wayne Simmonds out of the lineup.

The top line is clear, with leading scorer Anze Kopitar centering Ryan Smyth and Justin Williams. After that, though, the Kings are spreading things out, hoping that opponents won't simply be able to key on one or two lines in order to shut them down.

Tonight against the Dallas Stars, the Kings will go with a ``second'' line of Stoll centering Marco Sturm and Brown. Brad Richardson will center Kyle Clifford and Trevor Lewis, and Handzus will center Ponikarovsky and Kevin Westgarth.

``You want to have depth,'' Stoll said. ``You want to have lines where, when the other team is looking at your lineup, they're seeing, `Any one of those lines can score and contribute and create offense.' That's how you win. You don't win with one line or two lines. You've got to have that depth, because guys can get hurt, guys can be out of the lineup, so it's nice to have that luxury.''

The players, Stoll said, don't spend much time worrying about the perceived depth chart.

One day last week, Stoll's line wore red jerseys in practice, typically signifying a ``third'' line. The next day, the same line wore white, usually designating a ``second'' line.

``I think that's more for you guys [media] to say that kind of stuff, and speculate,'' Stoll said. ``As long as you're playing, and you're playing well and contributing to the team in some way, positively, I think that's the only thing that matters. And winning games. When you have a good team, I wouldn't say it's one through four.

``Your fourth line is usually the line that gives you more energy and is a more physical line, and they're not necessarily on the power play, but it's just a matter of everybody playing their role and contributing to the team in some way positive.''


Simmonds, who suffered some type of leg injury in Saturday's victory over Edmonton, stayed in Los Angeles and was scheduled to undergo an MRI on Monday.

Simmonds' place in the lineup was taken by Westgarth, who now helps form what is perhaps the bulkiest line in recent Kings history.

``That's 19 feet of hockey player,'' the Princeton-educated Westgarth said, after doing the math in his head for a couple seconds.

Indeed, Westgarth, Handzus and Ponikarovsky all stand 6-foot-4, and each player is listed as weighing between 219 and 228 pounds, for a total of 673 pounds.


Coach Terry Murray was asked about the difference in goalie Jonathan Bernier's last game, a 5-2 win over Edmonton, as opposed to Bernier's previous two games, when he didn't fare well in two losses. The difference?

``A win,'' Murray joked.

Murray is in the bottom-line business at this point. On Sunday, Murray announced that Bernier would get the start Monday against Dallas, under the theory that he would continue playing a goalie who won games. Bernier stopped 24 of 26 shots against Edmonton.

``Sometimes it doesn't have to be pretty,'' Murray said. ``You can win and play ugly, and you're still happy at the end of the day. You can play great and you lose and you're not happy. The bottom line is, he won the game. He made some very big stops at critical times. It's a 3-2 game, and I know we mismanaged the puck a couple times there in our D zone and he had to come up big, which he did.

``There were a couple big saves on penalty-killing, and that's always critical for us, to have good special teams. He gave us what we needed, at the end of the day. … He settled in. I thought his game became confident as we got into the second and third periods. It's been a while since he has faced the game situations, and he adjusted very quickly to it.''
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