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Morning Skate: Lines Set

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
Terry Murray indicated that the lines are finally set for the Kings playoff run and Anze Kopitar will continue to center a line for Justin Williams and Ryan Smyth.

ANAHEIM – After weeks, if not months, of tinkering, Kings coach Terry Murray thinks he has finally found three forward lines that he will go with for the rest of the season.

Terry Murray: Lines Set

The fourth line, however, remains subject to constant change.

The Kings will make one lineup change for tonight’s game against Anaheim, putting in Rich Clune in place of Scott Parse as a fourth-line winger.

Ron Hextall on Scott Parse

With the playoffs on the horizon, the Kings will essentially have a four-player pool – Clune, Parse, Raitis Ivanans and Brad Richardson – to mix and match with.

Ivanans provides a "heavyweight presence." Clune is an agitator. Parse is the best pure scorer of the bunch and Richardson is a versatile forward who can play center and wing, and has some scoring ability but also isn’t afraid to go into the corners.

Murray said his fourth-line makeup will continue to be a work in progress, and that changes won’t be limited to simply the start of a playoff series.

"As a series goes along, it does change," Murray said. "I think, in the early part of a series, you've to make sure that you've covered your bases with the gritty guys, physical guys, and then, depending on how things move through that first four games, then you have to be ready to make adjustments, because everything is so critical later on.

"Any retaliation, or not dealing with the grit that's in the game the right way, could put the other team on the power play. Discipline and poise is critical at that time."

On the Kings’ first three lines, Anze Kopitar will center Ryan Smyth and Justin Williams, Jarret Stoll will center Alexander Frolov and Dustin Brown, and Michal Handzus will center Fredrik Modin and Wayne Simmonds.

Clune, who has two assists in 12 games with the Kings, returns to the lineup after being a healthy scratch from the previous four games.

"He's an energy guy," Murray said. "He's a physical player. He's going to be on the line with Richie in the middle and Raitis on the left side, and I'm going to have to get minutes out of them. As you get ready for the postseason play, there's going to be those games, in any early part of a series, when you're going to have to have that kind of a line to play. We'll get it going here tonight."

KEEP IT GOING
The Kings clinched a playoff spot on Sunday, when Chicago beat Calgary in regulation. Two of the Kings’ next three games are against teams that are essentially out of the playoff race – Anaheim and Edmonton – and the other game is against a Phoenix team that is basically locked into fourth place in the Western Conference.

Dustin Brown on the Kings goal: Fifth Place

Murray, though, has been stressing to his players that there is much to play for. The Kings could finish anywhere from fifth to eighth in the West, and the last game of the season is against Colorado, a team still fighting for its playoff life.

"That's always been my philosophy," Murray said, "to keep going the right way, with execution, improving your game, working at your game in all areas and making sure that you're coming with 100-percent compete attitude. You want to make sure that your own team is ready to go and, on the other side of it, I think it's very important that you go out with an intent to win, try to win every night, because you do not want to have an effect on another team that's battling to do something.

"The last thing you want, as an organization, is someone on the outside, at the end of the day, evaluating the last half a dozen games and saying, `I wish they had played that guy, or started that goaltender, or played harder.' It just eliminates all doubt on anybody's part. But the most important part, again, is getting your own team ready, fine-tuning it, pushing to get yourself ready for the playoffs."

CELEBRATION OVER
Murray said he congratulated the team, before Monday’s practice, for making the playoffs, and the team received a big on-ice ovation from fans before practice.

Murray is doing his best, though, to keep his players focused in the right direction. After Tuesday’s morning skate, Murray was asked what his message would be to the many young players on his team who have never been to the NHL postseason.

"First of all, I want to tell them that this is the best time of their life," Murray said. "To get to the Stanley Cup playoffs, that's what it's all about. When you're a kid, you grow up dreaming about it, and here you are. From there, you want to make sure you're dealing with it the right way. Sometimes it can become overwhelming. The media attention brings greater focus. You think, as a young player, that you cannot go out and do anything wrong. `If I do anything wrong, it's really going to handcuff the team.'

"For me it's just, `Play good.' You don't have to do anything extraordinary, extra-special. Don't think that way coming into a game. Go play good. Be consistent in your performance. When that happens, then really good things can happen, extraordinary things can happen. Just let that unfold from that start point. Hopefully I can establish that kind of mentality, and then you just go out and play a relaxed hockey game."
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