Line combinations and defensive pairs can be changed. Special-teams systems can be tweaked and players’ minutes can be adjusted.
But in the view of coach Terry Murray, the biggest adjustment the Kings can make is with attitude. The Kings, in their coach’s view, have been playing not to lose, rather than playing to win. The result? They’ve been losing, with a 0-3-1 record in their last four. Terry Murray Audio
As the Kings attempt to end that slide tonight in Nashville, and solidify their playoff spot with seven games left, Murray had a simple message: play with some arrogance.
The Kings enter one point behind sixth-place Detroit, one point ahead of eighth-place Colorado and five points ahead of ninth-place Calgary. The bad news? In addition to the current winless streak, they’re 0-6-1 in their last seven games against Nashville.
"We won't talk about Nashville, quite honestly," Murray said. "It's now about the L.A. Kings. We put ourselves in a little bit of a situation here that we have to climb out and play our game. If you do that, then you give yourself an opportunity to win a game. I know our record against Nashville is not good, but right now the priority is the L.A. Kings.
"Our mindset going into games is that we're hesitant, we have a little bit of that fear of winning, and I just want a little more of that inner arrogance, going out and playing and showing a little strut in your game. `You're a good team, you're a solid group of guys, and take that confidence onto the ice and begin the games like that.'"
The Kings have faced a two-goal second-period deficit in each of their last four games. Only once, last Wednesday in Colorado, were they able to battle back and tie the game, even though they showed much-improved play in the third period of each game.
Murray’s message to the team was simple: don’t wait until the third to start playing.
"This is part of a process that you go through, and I've seen it with other teams that I've coached," Murray said. "We're a little bit on that `afraid to win' side right now, where your game is a little out of sync and the hesitancy is there in the early part of the game. As we go into later in the game and we're down by a goal, two goals, now we start to play the way that we have shown most of the year. It's easy to stand here and say that to a young group of guys, but that's the way you need to come out.
"Just play the game. Relax. Have confidence in your game. You try not to be afraid to win. So that's the message. I like what we've done in the last several games at the end. Again, we're down but we're playing some really good third periods. We have some good things happening with our attitude and our game, and that's the style that you have to show at the beginning."
Murray said that defenseman Randy Jones, who missed Monday’s game with an elbow injury, will return to the lineup in place of Peter Harrold. Brad Richardson on Lines
As previously announced, Jonathan Bernier
will make his second start of the season in goal. Backup goalie Erik Ersberg is out with a back injury, and Jonathan Quick
played on Monday night in the Kings’ 3-2 loss to Minnesota. Jonathan Bernier Audio
Murray said, after Tuesday’s morning skate, that he hadn’t yet decided on his exact forward lines, but said he was likely to put Ryan Smyth, Anze Kopitar
and Justin Williams
on the first line.
That trio was one of the NHL’s top scoring lines in the first six weeks of the season, but has failed to recapture its magic since Williams returned from a broken leg this month.
"The comparable is the first 22 games of the season, so it's a pretty difficult thing to compare against sometimes, because that line was on fire," Murray said. "They played tremendous hockey. Due to circumstances, you get away from it. The few games that they were back together, I liked the attitude. They worked hard, they were getting close.
"I put (Jeff) Halpern there last night, hoping that there might be a little bit of a breakthrough on a change. It didn't happen. I'm probably going to put Williams back on that line tonight. I had a meeting with them. It's, `You guys have to go out and do it.' I pointed out some areas of concern, from my view, and addressed it with them. Hopefully we can get on page with it." 'GET OUT OF HERE’
A day later, a major topic of discussion remained the Kings’ inability to score on a two-minute, 5-on-3 advantage with the game tied in the third period.
The Kings had two shots on goal, four missed shots and three blocked shots. Murray expressed satisfaction with some of the chances his team generated, and praised the Predators for their willingness and ability to blocked shots, but the coach had one big issue, that being the positioning of his players on the power play.
"(Drew) Doughty ends up on the left defense and (Jarret) Stoll ends up as that quarterback, on the right," Murray said. "I don't like that, and it bothers me whenever it happens. And it happened recently and it was addressed, and it happened again last night at a critical point in the game. Doughty is the guy we want to have with the puck. He's got nine power-play goals. He's (Shea) Weber for Nashville. He's a shooter, he can put points up, he can score, he sees the ice very well.
"As a young guy, I want him to take ownership and say, `Get out of here, that's my place,' that kind of an attitude. Put people in positions, slow it down. Hold onto the puck, and rotate back over top. I think that gives you a better opportunity at the end of the day."