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Morning Skate Notes: Jones In

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
Randy Jones will return to the Kings lineup

The Kings hope that Randy Jones’ days of being a stationary spectator are done.

They want Jones on the ice, not watching games from the press box, and when he’s on the ice, they want the defenseman moving his feet, not being stationary and making plays that lead to turnovers and scoring chances.

Jones will be back in the lineup tonight, in place of Peter Harrold, when the Kings host the Vancouver Canucks at STAPLES Center in Game 4 of a first-round series that the Kings lead, two games to one.

"We have an experienced player going in, in Randy Jones," coach Terry Murray said. "He's been in this situation many times. He was taken out for reasons that I did speak to him about, and I think he got the message. We'll get him in and get him going.''

Jones was a healthy scratch in the second and third games of this series, after his turnover in Game 1 led to the Canucks’ overtime goal and 3-2 victory.

A puck-moving defenseman acquired off waivers from Philadelphia early in the season, Jones had five goals and 16 assists in 48 regular-season games. In the process, Jones showed strong offensive instincts but also tended to commit costly turnovers.

The issue, on which Jones and Murray agreed, is Jones’ ability to keep his skates going and make good decisions with the puck.

"I've got to be moving my feet at all times," Jones said after Wednesday’s morning skate. "Sometimes when you get the puck, rather than looking up and waiting to make a play, it's a lot more beneficial, and easier on your teammates and yourself, if you start skating with it and start moving your feet, and then start looking to make plays. It just opens up a lot more for you, and that's what I've got to get back to doing.'’

Murray, who served as an assistant coach during part of Jones’ stint with the Flyers, said it’s an issue he’s been working on with Jones for quite a while.

"That's exactly what happens with Jonesy," Murray said, "and it goes back through my time with him in Philadelphia, when he was coming into the league from the (AHL) Phantoms. They had a great year down there, won the Calder Cup, and he comes in and shows flashes of being a top-four defenseman in the National Hockey League, and then he gets into this lull in his game, standing and watching and waiting for things to happen. He gets the puck on his stick and, instead of being assertive with it, he throws the puck around the boards and it gets to be a turnover situation.

"So that's the areas that I address with him on a fairly regular basis. Most important is, get your feet moving, get skating. He's a good skater. He can carry the puck out of danger and he can make good plays.''

Other than Jones’ inclusion, the Kings will go with the same lines and pairs they used in Game 3. The Canucks are expected to make one change, with Nolan Baumgartner replacing Aaron Rome on defense. Rome missed the first two games of the series with an injury.

The Kings are 7-for-12 on the power play so far in this series, an astronomical rate of success for any team, but the Kings aren’t expecting to have things so easy on the power play for the rest of this series.

No doubt, the Canucks will adjust, as Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said after Game 3, and it will be up to the Kings to counter-adjust.

Asked, in general, about how to reverse a team’s fortunes when things aren’t going well on the penalty kill, Murray said there’s no magic formula.

"It comes down to an individual team's situation," Murray said. "Are you too aggressive? Are you over-pursuing? Are you running at the points? Are you chasing the puck? Do you have your sticks in the right lanes? It all depends on when you watch your team play on video, as to what specifically you're going to focus on."

The line of center Michal Handzus and wingers Fredrik Modin and Brad Richardson might be known as the Kings’ "third line," but it’s hard to argue that it’s been anything less than the team’s most valuable line so far.

In the first three games of the series, Handzus, Modin and Richardson have combined for five of the Kings’ 10 goals and also have played a significant role in defending Vancouver’s top line of Daniel and Henrik Sedin and Alex Burrows.

"Handzus, Modin and Richardson, they’ve very good checking players, very responsible," Murray said. "They’re big bodies. They’re guys who can hold onto the puck. Both Modin and Handzus, for me, have great resumes on the offensive part of the game. I go back with Handzus in Philadelphia, and I even followed him back in his St. Louis Blues days, when he was paired up with Demitra. They had great success in the offensive part of the game.

"Same thing with Modin. He plays in Tampa Bay and he’s a big part of the Stanley Cup championship year there. He had a great series against the Flyers in that conference final, and you saw the offensive part of the game always there with him. He’s bringing it together now with great chemistry. Richardson is starting to, I think, find that offensive part of the game that he knows, he believes, is in there. He showed it in junior. He told me all about it at the end of last season, in his exit meeting. It was a little bit of a challenge to him, to bring it out, and he shows that knack, that skill that he’s able to play at that level."
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