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Morning Skate: Olympic Break Affecting Quick?

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
Jonathan Quick is just 1-2-0 since the Olympic Break as the Kings prepare to host Columbus tonight.

Even some of the NHL's best power plays fail 80 percent of the time, but when a team loses a game and doesn't score on the power play, the lack of success is magnified.

In the three games since the Olympic break -- entering tonight's game against Columbus at STAPLES Center -- the Kings are 3-for-9 on the power play, a very strong success rate, but in Saturday's loss to Montreal, the Kings went 0-for-4 with the man advantage.

The Kings enter tonight's game with the league's 10th-most efficient power-play unit, at 19.3 percent, but going forward, consistency will be the key. Since the start of January, the Kings have gone through long stretches of power-play success, then long droughts.

Fredrik Modin, acquired before last week's trade deadline, has joined the Kings' second power-play unit, alongside Alexander Frolov and Michal Handzus, and that should help a unit that went scoreless against Montreal and gave up a shorthanded goal.

``You always look at your special teams at the end of the day,'' Kings coach Terry Murray said. ``They’re so important in the game. They always have been, I suppose, but post-lockout there’s been more opportunities, so you look at it as a critical time. You end up with, sometimes, 10-12 minutes of special-teams time, so it’s important to get some results on a fairly consistent basis.

``The power play, we had some opportunities. There was some good offensive-zone time. We got some quality chances, we just didn’t get the end result that we needed.''

Anze Kopitar leads the Kings in power-play goals (12) and points (30). Drew Doughty has a team-high 19 power-play assists.

Justin Williams, out since Dec. 26 with a broken leg, was scheduled to be evaluated by a team doctor Monday with the hope that he would be cleared for contact in practice.

If Williams does get cleared, his return to the Kings' lineup might be imminent. Williams has been practicing vigorously for most of the past two weeks, and his return date would be up to Murray, after some consultation with Williams.

There's a possibility that Williams might be assigned to play a couple minor-league rehab games, but it seems more likely that Williams will return directly with the Kings when ready, and that he will return on the top line with Anze Kopitar and Ryan Smyth.

``That line was outstanding at the start,'' Murray said. ``I look back at video, and he was tremendous with his play, especially in the offensive zone. That's a chemistry that I would like to think can work again.''

Kings goalie Jonathan Quick earned a silver medal for being a part of the United States Olympic hockey team last month, but while the experience was fun and worthwhile for Quick, he didn't get a lot of time on the ice as the team's No. 3 goalie.

In his three games since the Olympic break, in the opinion of both Quick and Murray, Quick hasn't been as sharp in some areas as he was before the break. During the two-week Olympic tournament, Quick didn't appear in a game and get little practice time.

The Kings' post-Olympic schedule hasn't helped Quick either, as the Kings have been playing every other day, but Murray said he's confident that Quick will soon round into form again.

``We've got a little bit of time coming up, after the Chicago and Dallas games, to get some practice in,'' Murray said. ``I think it's coming. It's maybe just getting a little more comfortable again, is where he needs to get to, but I think it's coming. He will get his game right back to where it was before the break. In saying that, I don't think it is right there right now, but he's just got to work through it. He's still playing good and giving us and opportunity to win every night, and he'll get better from here.''

The NHL's general managers are holding their regular spring meetings in Boca Raton, Fla., this week, and one major topic of discussion will he hits to the head.

The GMs will discuss whether blows to the head should be regulated, or eliminated entirely, and based on the outcome of those discussions, the GMs could make recommendations to the competition committee, which convenes in June.
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