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Kings' power play struggles remain a hot topic

by Curtis Zupke

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The power play struggles of the Los Angeles Kings are either a great concern or not a big deal, depending on who was speaking Monday.

After an 0-for-6 performance in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals dropped them to 6-for-70 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Kings seem to be taking a cue from the Boston Bruins. Last season Boston went 5-for-61 on the power play in the first three rounds of the playoffs and, of course, went on to win the Stanley Cup.

Asked if the power play was overrated, Drew Doughty said, "No. The power play is so key. If we just get a couple on that power play [Sunday], it changes the whole game. With the man up, you should be creating those chances and those scoring opportunities.

"I think we're getting some good zone time right now, but it's definitely very important and I know all the guys on the power play are pretty disappointed with themselves right now."

A few minutes later Kings coach Darryl Sutter stood in Doughty's vacated spot and contradicted his most dynamic offensive defenseman.


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Power play overrated?

"Yeah," Sutter said. "The Bruins won the Stanley Cup."

Sutter let the laughter die down and said, "There's not many power plays in the playoffs. Basically it boils down to top guys. Sometimes you do [have them perform], and sometimes you don't. I think now we are still plus-1 power play-penalty kill."

The Kings are at least on the same page in that they need to reduce their passes -- a longtime pet peeve of their fans -- and pull the trigger more quickly.

"We need to make sure we're getting pucks off our stick quicker once we make that pass, because if you take your time it gives them more room to close the lane down and get in the shot lane," Doughty said. "So we need to take more one-timers and find a way to get past them to the net."

Doughty plays on a four-forward first unit with Mike Richards, Justin Williams, Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown. The second unit is Jarret Stoll, Jeff Carter, Dwight King, Slava Voynov and Willie Mitchell. But if there are about 40 seconds remaining on the advantage, Sutter will usually throw out his third line or sometimes his fourth.

The varied personnel get a lot of zone time, but they don't put enough rubber on the goalie. L.A. had one or zero shots on goal on two of their first three power plays in Game 4. In 13 playoff games, the Kings have 96 shots on 70 power plays -- a 1.37 shot-per-power play average.

Whatever the personnel, the issue is the same.

"I think we need to shoot more -- just get it to the top," Brown said. "We need more guys at the net. I think we're kind of perimeter right now. We just need to throw the puck to the net and have a collapsing attitude towards the net and around the net."

Sutter pointed to Phoenix's 12 blocked shots in Game 4 as a major reason why they sputtered, and he doesn't see how moving the puck quicker would be an issue going into Game 5 on Tuesday.

"If you're blocking shots, that means you have time to block a shot," Sutter said. "We've scored goals five-on-three where they weren't allowed to block shots, so we should be able to do that again five-on-four."

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