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What we know now

by Andrew Howard / Los Angeles Kings
The Kings opened the pre-season with a split of two games against the Phoenix Coyotes, a 4-3 victory at STAPLES Center and a 4-2 defeat in Glendale, Ariz.

The two games gives a chance to look at what we have learned so far this off-season and what we might come to expect during the regular season.

JOHNSON IMPRESSING
One of the more crucial and important things to take away from Tuesday night’s 4-3 victory over the Coyotes at home was the play of defenseman Jack Johnson. The 22 year-old scored two goals, including what proved to be a game-winning short-handed goal in the third period, and notched one assist for a three-point night and a solid start to the pre-season.

Check out his amazing goal from last night.



Kings coach Terry Murray has said that a lot of what the Kings can accomplish in 2009 depends on how Johnson develops in his fourth season in the NHL, and on Tuesday night Murray liked what he saw.

"It’s a great sign to see a young player come out and play with that kind of take-charge attitude," Murray said. "That’s what I liked about it. And he’s a good player and he’s got good talent but he had the attitude that is very important for a young player to move forward and become an important player on your team and to become a good player in the league. He took a step forward in that area tonight."

While Murray added that it was just an exhibition game against young player, he noted that Johnson’s aggressive play on the ice was great to see.

"We’ve got players that he’s playing against that are young guys, but the attitude was most important," Murray said. "And I liked the fact that he’s making a big effort here to step up and show that he’s going to make the move to be a top defenseman."

Johnson said after the game that he has worked hard to become a more complete player.

"I’m doing my best to make sure everything goes in the right direction," Johnson said. "I want to do everything I can to develop into the best player I can and to help to do my part in getting this team to go in the right direction."

As for his second goal, it was pretty spectacular. Leading 3-2 in the third period, Johnson received a pass from defense partner Rob Scuderi, took a Coyote forward playing defense on one-on-one, and put in a rising backhander for a short-handed goal and 4-2 lead that would hold up to be the game-winner.

"It was a pretty spectacular goal, exhibition game or not, you still have to go out and do it," Murray said. "On a four-on-three penalty kill situation on top of all that, it was a great effort. He it into his own hands to do something spectacular at that time and he did. If this was a regular season game it would be on ESPN."

BERNIER PLAYS ALL 60 MINS
Goaltender Jonathan Bernier turned in a solid performance Tuesday night against the Coyotes, making 20 saves.

Murray, who had never seen Bernier play in an NHL game before, was impressed with what he saw. One play in particular he pointed to was a save late in the third period when a puck was knocked down in front of the goal from the point, and as Murray said he made "a real quick pro save on that."

Bernier is in a battle with Erik Ersberg for a spot on the team, and Tuesday’s performance was a step in the right direction for Bernier.

"He was alert," Murray said. "He came to the bench during TV timeouts, he’s talking, he’s asking questions about different situations out there. I like that."

In Phoenix, Ersberg played the first two periods in the Kings’ 4-2 loss, stopping 14 of 16 shots. Jeff Zatkoff played the third period and stopped 12 of 14 shots.

SMYTH-KOPITAR-WILLIAMS LINE A HIT
Murray was pleased with what the starting line of Ryan Smyth, Anze Kopitar, and Justin Williams on Tuesday. The line was on the ice for three of the Kings’ four goals in the win over the Coyotes.

"That’s a line that was put together right after the deal was made to get Ryan Smyth," Murray said. "I liked it on paper. I really believe that you have to let veteran guys have some time together and see if they can develop some good chemistry."

Murray added that the line works well because all three player complement each other and have similar styles of play.

"They play a small space, tight space kind of a game, short handoff plays around the net," Murray said. "They can make the no-look pass and know where people are on the ice, so I’m going to stick with that line throughout the training camp and I hope it develops into be a real good line."

Williams noted that Smyth is at his best when he has possession of the puck either in the corner or in front of the net, and added that puck possession will be a main goal for the regular season.

"The longer we hang onto it, the more we’re going to make plays and tire teams down," Williams said. "It was a good first game for us."

NOTES
Right winger Wayne Simmonds scored both of the Kings’ goals in Tuesday night’s split-squad loss to the Coyotes in Glendale…Murray said Tuesday’s game was the best game he has seen Teddy Purcell play for him, noting his improvement on the dot-to-board play."He took hits to make plays, he bumped into guys, and he did the heavy going that you have to do in order to be a team or a player that’s going to be a good player on a team," Murray said…The Kings scored two power-play goals Tuesday night at STAPLES Center, a possible sign of things to come.

"Its just confidence," Johnson said. "You know everyone’s getting to know each other more and I mean you can’t have good players out there with no confidence, nothings going to get done. Last year we couldn’t figure it out and we definitely had the personnel out there and I think it’s just the confidence and zipping around and shooting whenever you can."

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