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Simmonds' Strut Just Fine

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
Given the results of their recent games, it seems as though the Kings can’t catch a break. Even when they got some good news Wednesday, it was tempered.

Wayne Simmonds, who has missed the last two games with an injury, made a surprise return to practice Wednesday and might be able to play Thursday when the Kings host Phoenix at STAPLES Center. The Kings hope Ryan Smyth is also available.

Smyth left the ice in considerable pain, late in Wednesday’s practice, after he was struck on the leg by a teammate’s slap shot. Smyth had been manning his normal position, in front of the net, during power-play drill when he went down.

Smyth got off the ice under his own power, but with a substantial limp and while yelling in pain. There was no immediate word on Smyth’s condition after practice.

Left winger Ryan Smyth left Wednesday's practice under pain after a slap shot hit him in the foot.  The Kings were practicing the power play when he was injured.
``That's what happens when you practice the power play,’’ coach Terry Murray said. ``Power play and penalty killing. I've seen it happen many, many times. You get that shot that gets away, and someone gets hurt. I've seen it up to the face, and it can do a lot of damage. … He turned around, and it got him in the hamstring, it looked like.

``All the equipment is on the front of your body. You're better just to stand there and keep your feet on the ice and deal with it from there. You get some guys doing the `flamingo,' and wouldn't you know, the foot you lift is the one that gets blasted.’’

Simmonds had a much better day. Murray said Simmonds’ participation in practice Wednesday ``makes him a possibility’’ to play Thursday, and the Kings would certainly benefit from having Simmonds’ grit and two-way ability back in the lineup.

``I was very surprised, actually, that he went on the ice,’’ Murray said. ``Talking with (trainer) Chris Kingsley, it was just (that he was going to) put on a sweat suit and skates and go out and try a little public skating, see how he felt. I thought that would be the end of it. Next thing I know, he's coming in and saying he wants to participate in the practice. So it's great news, very encouraging.’’

The Kings practiced on Wednesday the same way they play Tuesday, with Anze Kopitar centering Alexei Ponikarovsky and Dustin Brown on the first line, and Jarret Stoll centering Smyth and Justin Williams on the second line.

Murray, though, didn’t commit to keeping the first line intact against the Coyotes, saying he’s still looking at options in the first-line left-wing spot.

``I just keep looking for that player to fit there with Kopitar,’’ Murray said. ``That's probably the place I'm looking all of the time, with, what can I get here that's really going to make that line have good chemistry, good feel and be very effective on a consistent basis? So that's why I do what I do. I'm finding, though, that with Stoll and Smyth and Williams, they go back together last night and they had a good game.

``I'm finding that kind of consistency with them, so I'll probably not touch that one in the near future. I'll let them play. Hopefully everything starts to fall into place, with some results, but I sure liked the way they cycled and the way they had offensive-zone time. But the search goes on, with Kopi's line.’’

Jonathan Quick will get the nod in goal when the Kings host the Phoenix Coyotes Thursday night.
Murray did, however, commit to starting Jonathan Quick in goal. Quick had a strong game Tuesday against St. Louis before his inability to hold the puck, on a save late in the third period, ended up as the game-winning goal for the Blues.

Quick will get a chance at redemption against the Coyotes.

``I thought he had a very good game,’’ Murray said. ``Going back to (Jonathan) Bernier's game, I thought he had a very good game (Monday at Dallas). I thought Quick's game was very good last night. The timing of the goal against, and the goal itself, were not good, but he's our No. 1 guy. It's a big division game here, and he will play.’’

The Kings have lost nine of their last 11 games, but three of their last four losses have been one-goal games. Based on that, Murray has been telling his players to build off their recent play, rather than calling for drastic changes.

``As soon as we came in (after the St. Louis game), it was very emotional and it was a very hard way to lose a game,’’ Murray said. ``I said, `Look, guys, it's not what we wanted for a result, but there were a lot of good things in that game that have to be brought back home and built on. Keep doing the same things, because the results will start to flow.' I said, `Every one of you forwards contributed tonight. We rolled four lines. There was the right stuff on the forecheck. There was physical play. There was a good presence by every one of you guys.'

``The defense group did a great job. The penalty killing, we killed off three big penalties. The 5-on-3 is a hard one, but everyone was blocking shots and sacrificing themselves. Quick made huge stops at times in the game. So we just need to keep going with that, bring it home and build on it.’’

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