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At the Rink: Jets at Kings

by Curtis Zupke

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -– The Los Angeles Kings will likely be without defenseman Jake Muzzin for at least one more game. Muzzin took extra practice at the optional skate Sunday morning and said he hasn't been cleared yet from an undisclosed injury.

The Kings begin a six-game homestand against the Winnipeg Jets at Staples Center.

"I wouldn't think too much longer," Muzzin said. "I've got to talk to the doctor and see what he says. That's about it. If he's says 'Good to go,' I'm good to go. I feel ready, conditioning wise. I can continue to skate and bag [skate] when I can't play."

Muzzin's absence means that Brayden McNabb will continue to get thrown in the fire as the defensive partner with Drew Doughty. McNabb has seen the opponent's top forwards, a tough task for a young player.

"It's not easy," Muzzin said. "Speaking from my own experience, it took me near a year to learn, you know? He has some experience in Buffalo but it's a different team, a different system, different personnel. It's a tough job but he's a good player. He's playing with a good guy."

The 6-foot-4, 209-pound McNabb has grit and toughness in his makeup, and that fits in with what coach Darryl Sutter wants.

"It's part of his M.O.," Sutter said. "You have to do that. You have to have an identity. You have to play within your personality. To be quite honest, with Muzz out of the lineup, Muzz and Drew are our most physical defensemen, so Brayden has to bring some of that."

This will be the Kings' longest home stretch of the rest of 2014. They are two games into the season but are looking for their first win. They have been outscored 7-2 and are 0-for-8 on the power play.

"We're at home to start the year and we haven't played our best to date so far, but with the homestand we've got to take advantage of these points," center Jarret Stoll said. "You don't have that many long homestands in a season -- maybe two or three -- and you don't want to let them slip by. Big game for us [Sunday] to get on track."

Winnipeg has never defeated the Kings in regulation at Staples Center in the history of the Winnipeg-Atlanta franchise. The Kings are 6-0-2 against the Jets, but Sutter sees them as a dangerous.

"I think they changed their style," he said. "They play to their strengths. [Bryan] Little and [Mark] Scheifele are two underrated top centermen. They probably fly under that same little bit of radar that [Anze] Kopitar used to where he was appreciated by who he played against but not from the outside. Those two guys are big, big parts of their team."

Goalie Martin Jones was off the ice first. It will be his first game against Winnipeg.

Here are the projected lineups:


Dustin Byfuglien - Mark Scheifele - Blake Wheeler

Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Michael Frolik

Adam Lowry - Mathieu Perreault - Matt Halischuk

TJ Galiardi - Jim Slater - Chris Thorburn

Zach Bogosian - Jacob Trouba

Mark Stuart - Tobias Enstrom

Adam Pardy - Grant Clitsome

Ondrej Pavelec

Michael Hutchinson

Scratched: Anthony Peluso, Paul Postma

Injured: Evander Kane (right knee)


Marian GaborikAnze KopitarJustin Williams

Tyler ToffoliJeff CarterTanner Pearson

Dwight KingJarret StollDustin Brown

Kyle CliffordMike RichardsJordan Nolan

Brayden McNabbDrew Doughty

Robyn RegehrSlava Voynov

Alec MartinezMatt Greene

Martin Jones

Jonathan Quick

Injured: Jake Muzzin (undisclosed), Trevor Lewis (mid/upper body)

Scratched: Andy Andreoff

Status report: The Kings shuffled three of the four lines Saturday, with Williams switching places with Brown on the top line. Richards is on the fourth line and bounced back from a poor faceoff game in the season opener.

Who's hot: Carter and Pearson have scored the only goals in two games for the Kings this season. Carter has a team-high eight shots on goal.

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