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Morning Skate: Elkins To Make Debut

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
Corey Elkins
EDMONTON – It seems as though Corey Elkins will get the chance to make his NHL debut a memorable game.

Kings coach Terry Murray indicated that Elkins, called up from Manchester of the AHL on Monday, would get significant minutes when the Kings play the Edmonton Oilers tonight. Elkins will take the lineup spot of center Jarret Stoll, who suffered a groin injury in the third period of Monday night’s loss to Vancouver and won’t play tonight.

Murray said he hadn’t decided exactly how to use Elkins at the start of tonight’s game but said Elkins, at least at the start of the game, will play a significant role, even though Murray doesn’t know exactly what he will get from the rookie.

At the time of his call-up, Elkins, 24, was tied for the Monarchs team lead with 19 points.

"In listening to how he's playing down there, he's one of their better players, maybe their best player down there right now, and scoring goals," Murray said of Elkins. "I'm going to have to put him in some situations where he's very responsible, on a higher line, and get a look at it. I'm going to give him a chance and see how he's going to play, and evaluate it as the shifts go by, and then make decisions."

When Stoll left the game in the third period, Murray moved up Michal Handzus to the second line and Oscar Moller to the third line. In addition to Elkins at center, the Kings also have Brad Richardson, who has been playing left wing of late.

"Clearly, with Stoll out of the lineup, I'm going to need a center iceman that's in that 2-3 spot," Murray said, "whether I move Zeus up or leave him and put someone else in Stoll's position. I've yet to make that decision yet. There's going to be an opportunity for Elkins to get some good minutes."

Elkins was signed, as an undrafted free agent, by the Kings in March after a four-year career at Ohio State. He will become the fifth player to make his NHL debut with the Kings this season, following Alec Martinez, Scott Parse, Andrei Loktionov and Brayden Schenn.

A turning point in Monday’s game came late in the third period, when the Kings failed to score on a 46-second, 5-on-3 advantage, then allowed a Vancouver power-play goal less than 30 seconds later.

Such struggles are nothing new for the Kings, who are now 2-for-13 with a two-man advantage this season. That’s a 15.4-percent success rate, lower than the Kings’ overall power-play success rate of 19.6 percent.

"Well, in the one last night, it comes down to getting possession of the puck, starting with faceoff wins and then entries," Murray said. "That's where it gives you an opportunity to have as much time with possession as possible.

"That was a difficult one last night, with generating any opportunities, with shot mentality, net presence, just not getting it done. That's all there was to it. That 5-on-3, to me, was a really good reflection of how we came to start the game. A little too casual."

Wayne Simmonds is officially listed as week to week after Simmonds underwent an arthroscopic knee procedure on Monday in Los Angeles.

A team spokesman said a more specific timetable for Simmonds’ return might be able to be set next week, after Simmonds is evaluated by a doctor.

Monday’s game marked the first time this season that the Kings entered the game as the top team in the Western Conference. With a victory, they would have passed Washington for most points in the NHL, but they suffered a 3-1 loss to Vancouver.

The Kings, officially, fell into fourth place in the conference, even though they’re still tied with San Jose for most points in the West (45). The Sharks, who don’t play again until Thursday, have one game in hand over the Kings, and the division-leading teams automatically occupy the top three spots in the conference standings.

Murray was asked whether his team might have a different mindset, being at the top of the standings as the "hunted" team rather than the "hunters."

"That should be the exciting part about it, I think. You just want to continue to build on that position that you put yourself in. I think it's a great experience, what players are going through. For the young guys on our team, who have never been through that situation before, this is a great opportunity to feel it and actually go through it.

"For me to stand in front of the team and talk about it, it's hard to sometimes understand that, as a young player. You actually have to put yourself in that position and get through it and get a first-hand experience of it. I think it's a great opportunity for players to put themselves on the line and see where they're at."
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