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Morning Skate: Smyth Close; Parse Strong

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
Los Angeles Kings center Scott Parse scores a goal against the Calgary Flames in the first period of an NHL hockey game in Los Angeles, Monday, Dec. 7, 2009. (AP Photo/Lori Shepler)
SAN JOSE - Ryan Smyth didn’t join the Kings in the Bay Area, but is it possible that Smyth will be back for the Kings’ next road trip?

Coach Terry Murray left open the possibility on Wednesday, when asked about a timetable for Smyth’s return. Smyth has been out of the lineup since Nov. 16, when he suffered a still-undisclosed upper-body injury during a game at Florida.

"There isn’t, not a specific time," Murray said of a potential return date. "The first time we were told, after the injury, was four weeks. Then I expanded that, to four to six weeks. Maybe the trip up to Canada in the next week. We’ll see how that works out.

"He’s itchy. He’s on the ice every day in practice. He’s involved. He’s starting to push and shove on guys and he’s one of those players that you have to be very careful with, that he doesn’t get too involved and have a setback. He has to be cleared by the doctor. It’s not going to be a decision of his, or mine, or even the training staff. The doctor has to be the person to say, 'Everything is good to go."’

The Kings start their three-game trip through Canada with a game Monday at Vancouver. Smyth has been skating during team practices in recent days and, starting on Tuesday, joined some drills. Smyth said he is schedule to see a doctor on Saturday, when it will next be determine if he can be cleared to play.

Asked how many days of regular practice Smyth would need before he was inserted into the lineup, Murray said, "If he was cleared today, I would play him tonight."

Scott Parse’s game appears to be back on an upswing.

Parse, called up from Manchester of the AHL in late October, had a strong offensive start, with one goal and two assists in his first four games. Then Parse went quiet, and didn’t record a point in any of his next eight games.

In his last nine games, however, Parse has three goals and five assists – the three goals coming in his last four games – and has become the regular left winger on the "checking" line with center Michal Handzus and right wing Wayne Simmonds.

"Well, he's always had that ability to put the puck in the net," Murray said. "You take a look at his resume, through his younger days, and he's put up pretty good numbers. That's a part of the game that coaches have a tough time coaching, that innate skill that they bring. I think he's starting to push it to the next level, though."

Monday’s game against Calgary showed the continuing growth in Parse’s game, and the need for more. Parse scored a brilliant goal with a strong move in front of the net, but also took a potentially back-breaking penalty in the third period.

"I think he's starting to understand what it takes to be a good pro, on the checking side of the game," Murray said, "that you have to do the dirty things, the nasty things, out there, as far as taking hits and finishing off to spot plays on the forecheck.

"Then, other times, there are steps backward, and we're seeing where he maybe doesn't have a complete grasp on it. But it's coming. It's moving along and, again, he has scored some real beautiful goals, some highlight goals, and we hope that he builds on it."

Murray said he doesn’t intend to make any lineup changes tonight, meaning that the healthy scratches will once again be Davis Drewiske and Peter Harrold.

Drewiske started the season with a plus-10 rating in his first 15 games, but is minus-8 in his last 12 games and was not a "plus player" in any one of those games.

"He's a big guy, a strong guy, and we want him to be a good NHL shut-down defenseman," Murray said of Drewiske. "That's getting on players fast. Just do the one thing: finish and pin. You don't have to knock the guy off the puck, get the puck and make the first outlet pass. That's maybe a tendency that is there also. So we've talked about that, and he's a smart kid. He will get better at that."

Tonight’s game will be the third meeting of the season between the Kings and Sharks. In the first game, Oct. 6 at STAPLES Center, the Kings led 4-0 and held on to win 6-4. On Oct. 28 in San Jose, the Kings lost 2-1 in a shootout.

Last season, the Kings went 1-3-2 against the Sharks, and San Jose coach Todd McLellan was asked about the difference in the Kings this season.

"They're more confident," McLellan said. "They earned the right to be confident as the season wore on last year. I thought the coaching staff -- and I said it last time in here -- did a tremendous job with that team, with the young players.

"Doughty, when you compare him at this time, last year to this year, he's obviously way more confident, and feels real good about his game. The goaltending has been tremendous. They're a very, very good hockey club. We certainly understand that, and we know that we'll have our hands full."
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