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Three Kings: Second Line Threat

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings

Much of what the Kings did in the offseason was based on building a strong second line. It’s still a work in progress, but the framework is in place for what could be a successful trio.

The incumbent, Dustin Brown, holds down the right side and is a 30-goal threat. Mike Richards, acquired in June, would be a No. 1 center on most teams and is highly skilled with the puck on his stick.  On the left side, the Kings started with Dustin Penner but are now giving a long look to Scott Parse.

Richards and Brown rank second and third, respectively, on the team with 10 and nine points, but the key cog figures to be Parse, who has shown potential but has also been frustrating, sometimes at the same time.

Sidelined for most of last season because of hip surgery, Parse had a rough training camp and was a healthy scratch in six of the first eight games. But Parse re-entered the lineup last week and has scored two goals in three games, including one goal on the power play.

``I kind of liked what Parse has given me here,’’ coach Terry Murray said. ``I know it’s been a bit of an issue with him, and with me. I’m trying to be very understanding of what he went through in the offseason, with the hip surgery. It does take time. Most important in that, for the player, is to understand his own position, to get through that. I’ve said this before -- don’t begrudge your time in the trenches, when you’re out of the lineup. Continue to work hard, to get yourself back to a level of play.

``I think he started to buy into that during the last four or five days he was out, doing all the extra work to get skating, and it has paid off for him. He scored a couple goals. The line started to show a little bit of chemistry. He’s a player who, I think, has a great skill set and can give us that secondary scoring that we’re constantly looking for as a team. So it’s moving in the right direction.’’

For Parse, though, getting in the lineup is one thing. Staying on the ice is another. Parse has been called for six minor penalties in his last three games.

Simon Gagne, who missed the previous two games with an undisclosed injury, made it through a second consecutive day of practice and is scheduled to play Thursday night against Edmonton at STAPLES Center, Murray said. Gagne returns to a top-line pairing with Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams.

With Gagne’s return, Trent Hunter is scheduled to go back to being a healthy scratch. Jonathan Quick will start in goal.

When the Kings and Oilers play Thursday night, few introductions will be needed.

The Kings have former Oilers Colin Fraser (injured), Matt Greene, Ethan Moreau, Dustin Penner and Jarret Stoll. The Oilers have former Kings Eric Belanger, Ryan Smyth and Colten Teubert.

Teubert, a 2008 first-round pick who was sent to Edmonton in a trade for Penner, was called up from the AHL on Wednesday and might make his NHL debut. Smyth, traded to Edmonton in the offseason per his request, is off to a strong start with five goals in 11 games.

``The one thing that Ryan Smyth always did for us was his play in front of the net,’’ Murray said. ``He really played hard in the offensive zone. He made plays from below the net and scored some very big goals for us. … He’s got a great stick and hand-eye coordination, and that’s where he contributes. … His game is not going to change after this many years. He’s a real character guy, a veteran of the game.’’

Overall, the Kings are slightly ahead of last season’s goal-scoring pace, but that increase has come from an improved power-play percentage. That’s a positive, but 5-on-5 scoring is still lagging.

The Kings are tied for 21st in the NHL, with 16 goals in 5-on-5 situations in 11 games, and their 5-on-5 scoring average has actually decreased slightly from last season’s average.

``We need that 5-on-5 scoring,’’ Murray said. ``We’ve talked about that over the past three years, that it has to be significantly better. That’s the same position that we’re in today. It has to be significantly better. I think it starts with our shot attitude, mentality. We’re 27th in the league today.

``Pucks to the net, I think we’re averaging just a touch above 27 per game, and that has to be the start of it. Get more pucks to the net and better traffic. We need more around the net. I thought the one thing out of the three games we just played is that we probably let the goalie see too many pucks that were coming toward him, and making it look a little too easy for him. So, net traffic.’’

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