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Morning Skate: Green Out; Drewiske, Harrold In

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
Kings Defenseman Matt Greene is out with an upper body injury, suffered on Darcy Tucker's third-period hit on Monday night. Tucker is suspended for tonight's game.
DENVER – Kings coach Terry Murray didn’t intend to make any lineup changes for Wednesday’s game against Colorado, but Murray had his hand forced.

Murray on LAK-COL match up | Joe Sacco

Matt Greene, who took a big hit in Monday’s overtime victory over Colorado, is out with an undisclosed upper-body injury. Davis Drewiske, a healthy scratch in the previous 11 games, will join the defensive lineup for the first time since Feb. 11.

As something of an insurance policy – because Drewiske is so far removed from NHL action – the Kings will also dress forward/defenseman Peter Harrold and play him as the fourth-line right winger alongside Alexander Frolov and Jeff Halpern.

After Wednesday’s morning skate, Murray said he had not yet decided how his defensive pairs would look. Greene had been partnered with Randy Jones.

"It's been a long time since Whiskey has been in," Murray said, "and if something ever happened, with anybody else, I need that kind of a look with back-to-back games. I can rely on them, but I don't want to risk it, with the back-to-back, if something developed with five (defensemen) only."

Murray said he considered Greene’s status to be "day to day." Greene didn’t play much in the third period Monday after a hit by Colorado’s Darcy Tucker near the end boards on an icing play, a hit that got Tucker suspended for tonight’s rematch. (Tucker suspended | Tucker's hit | Comment)

"It was just like any other hit," Greene said. "You feel it for a little bit but you just hope it goes away. Some of the soreness didn't go away, and it just got a little worse overnight, so I'll just see what Kinger [trainer Chris Kingsley] says and go off that."

Murray didn’t like Tucker’s hit, calling it part of "the stuff that players have to have more recognition with," but Greene didn’t seem to have a problem with the hit.

"It's a tough play," Greene said. "I don't know if he [Tucker] knew it was icing. I didn't know it was icing. I know it was a collision, and it happens. It's a play that happens in hockey all the time. You can't be upset about it."

While there seems to be agreement, on both sides, that hits to the head should be regulated – and soon – players and the league can’t seem to come to an agreement.

NHLPA/NHL Competition Committee member Jeff Halpern

In a statement today, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly indicated that the league could – and likely would – enact a rule change on its own and determine what type of supplemental discipline will be handed down for hits to the head.

The league’s competition committee has yet to formally respond to the proposed rule change, although that might happen as soon as today.

"To the extent we do not receive NHLPA or Competition Committee sign-off or approval, we will consider all available options and make a decision in the best interests of the League and the players," Daly said in his statement.

NHLPA spokesman Jonathan Weatherdon has argued, in a statement, that "Under the CBA, the League’s proposal cannot take effect until it first receives the support of the joint NHLPA/NHL Competition Committee."

Halpern is one of five players on the committee, and said internal communication is still ongoing.

"From the players' side, we had a call last week," Halpern said. "We wanted to make sure that players were aware of what was going on, and that we were going to come back with something, to make sure that guys were in agreement moving forward. I'm not sure what stance the league will take, but we'll give our reply pretty soon. If they want to do something outside of that, that's up to them, but we're just making sure, like in the past, that players are made aware.

"The players are in support for having discipline for those kind of hits. I think the only thing that has come into question is how you can have something that's a suspendable play that's not even illegal during the course of the game."

UPDATE: at 4:15 p.m. PT, Bill Daly, Deputy Commissioner of the National Hockey League, today released the following statement:
"Following discussions today between the NHL and the NHLPA, including player members of the Competition Committee, the NHLPA has requested additional time to secure the approval of its Executive Board prior to proceeding with the implementation of the proposed new rule regarding hits to the head. In response to the Union's request, the League has agreed to wait until tomorrow before proceeding with implementation. Our strong preference remains to proceed on a cooperative basis with the players on this important issue."

Other than the new-look Frolov-Halpern-Harrold line, the Kings will go with the same forward lines they used in Monday’s game.

Murray had solid praise, in particular, for the line of Ryan Smyth, Jarret Stoll and Justin Williams. Ironically, the line was put together in part because none of the three was playing particularly well, but all three had a strong game against the Avalanche.

"A good line," Murray said. "Played well for us. Ryan Smyth got fired up, against his former team. He wanted to go out and play well. I really liked the game that Williams threw at us. It was one of his best games, probably his best game since he's been back from his injury. Real good intensity. He wanted the puck. He was talking on the bench, very alive, very into it the whole time. He's starting to create those little plays that he was able to make before his setback. So that's a real positive sign for the team.

"At the end, they scored a couple goals, and Smyth, in particular, had a huge game on that side of it. I liked Jarret Stoll, because he had the puck a little bit more on his stick, trying to do something whenever he had it, instead of moving it right away or dumping it in. His attitude was, 'I can use my speed. I can challenge some people here and create some openings for my wingers.'''

Kyle Quincey, traded (all-time Kings trades) from the Kings to Colorado in the July deal that sent Ryan Smyth to the Kings, is having a solid season with the Avalanche.

Quincey had four goals, 34 assists and a minus-5 rating in 72 games with the Kings last season. He has five goals, 21 assists and a plus-9 rating in 70 games this season.

"I have a little bit of a different role this year, to shut down the other team's top line," Quincey said. "It's been great, a new challenge for me. Probably a little less power play than last year, but it's good. It's a fun team to be a part of, and we're kind of proving some people wrong, so it's fun."

Quincey also had praise for the Kings and their development this season.

"Dean (Lombardi) and Ron Hextall and a few guys, they brought in the philosophy of the old Flyers over to the team, and it's winning hockey," Quincey said. "That's how you win. From last year, each and every guy got a little bit better, and that's the result of how well they're doing this year. It's good to see."

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