Skip to main content

As Kings struggle, Murray mixes up his lines

by Curtis Zupke
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- After watching his team continue to muddle offensively, Los Angeles Kings coach Terry Murray decided wholesale change was in order.

Murray has mixed up almost all of his line combinations and will try them out Monday night in a divisional matchup against San Jose.

The first line has Dustin Brown moving to left wing with Anze Kopitar and Trent Hunter. The second line reunites former Philadelphia teammates Mike Richards and Simon Gagne with Jarret Stoll moving to right wing. Finally, Andrei Loktionov will center a third line with Kyle Clifford and the demoted Justin Williams.

The Kings have scored seven goals in the past four games.

Brown has one goal in the past 14 games and Williams has no goals in that span. Stoll, a 20-goal scorer last season, has only two goals this season.

"I'm hoping the players are going to show us an answer one way or the other here certainly on the positive side that they like the change," Murray said.

Murray won't change the power play units, though, because the issue there has more to do with the organization's long-term issue of not putting pucks on net.

"The shot mentality -- it has to get better," Murray said. "We have to get it off our stick faster. People are in front of the net doing their job and give ourselves and opportunity to score or to recover a puck and create more opportunities."

Hunter on top line:
Hunter's promotion to the first line comes curiously after he dubiously missed an open net in Saturday's 2-1 loss to Chicago.

But Hunter is a former 20-goal scorer who has gone from playing on a pro tryout contract in training camp to a first line right wing position.

"It's definitely a little bit of a roller coaster, starting in the summer and not having a contract," Hunter said. "It's not something I've had to do for quite a while, but it's part of the game. Now I've just got to take advantage and try and contribute any way I can."

Hunter has no goals in 11 games but that could change with Brown and Kopitar.

"They're both great players and do great things with the puck," Hunter said. "Brownie takes the puck to the net hard and opens up a lot of space there. Kopi just makes great plays with the puck and sees the ice so well. They definitely make space out there, for sure."

Brown moves to left side:
Kings captain Dustin Brown will play left wing after spending large portions of his career on the right side.

The right-handed Brown said there will be some considerable adjustments good and bad.

"It's much more difficult making plays coming out of your own end," Brown said. "But making plays coming off the blue line on the offensive side of the puck -- you can cut, you can do the slant pass on to the guys' stick. And from a protection standpoint it's a lot easier to drive wide.

"There's lot more options on the offensive side of the puck. It's more difficult. I've just got to take more reps in practice and taking it off the wall."

Penner cleared: Dustin Penner has been cleared for practice but is not yet ready to return to the lineup, coach Terry Murray said.

Penner has missed seven games with a hand injury. The team has two days off after Monday and Thursday is a possible target date for his return.

"I hope so," Murray said. "We're very close. If it came to his decision, he'd want to play tonight. But two more days of practice, getting going, feeling more comfortable, I think he's pretty close."

Alec Martinez remains out with an upper-body injury.

San Jose a measuring stick: Murray downplayed the matchup with San Jose as a way to measure his team.

But it's difficult to ignore that L.A. is 0-4 against top-tier teams San Jose, Detroit, Chicago and Vancouver.

Monday is the first Kings-Sharks meeting in L.A. since San Jose eliminated the Kings in overtime of Game 6 of last season’s conference quarterfinals.

"It's definitely an important game," Kyle Clifford said. "Every game counts come April. Obviously we want to make a good push, and you never know who you're going to meet in the playoffs, too. You definitely want to make a strong impression."
View More

The NHL uses cookies, web beacons, and other similar technologies. By using NHL websites or other online services, you consent to the practices described in our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service, including our Cookie Policy.