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Kings shake up lines in search for offense

by Curtis Zupke
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Winning four out of five games seemingly wouldn't be cause for a shakeup, but Los Angeles Kings coach Terry Murray is looking at the big picture.

One day after a 3-1 loss at Vancouver ended a four-game winning streak, Murray mixed up his lines in practice Friday and had Michal Handzus with Dustin Brown and Dustin Penner while Jarret Stoll centered Ryan Smyth and Oscar Moller in the top-six forward groupings.

Kyle Clifford was with Brad Richardson and Wayne Simmonds while Trevor Lewis skated with Alexei Ponikarovsky and Kevin Westgarth.

"What you saw today will be what we'll go with tomorrow," Murray said of his plans for the Kings' game against Dallas at the Staples Center on Saturday.

The Kings have won two of three games since they lost both Justin Williams and Anze Kopitar to injuries. But the two victories came against non-playoff teams Colorado and Edmonton.

They lost to Vancouver on Thursday night in what was perceived to be the first real test of their offensive depth, and Murray obviously saw some red flags -- including a third period that saw the Canucks outshoot the Kings 16-0.

"I felt in our game last night we got away from executing at the level of play that we have had," Murray said.

"We've played some very good hockey. We broke away from the structure. We got away from playing for each other when in possession of the puck. When you start to see that happen, a little bit of complacency might be setting in and it's time to make a change."

Smyth has actually played with Stoll for much of the season, and Murray has used the Clifford-Richardson-Simmonds unit at times following power plays.

But the Kings clearly have to adjust after losing their top two scorers.

"Obviously we lost some key players with Kopi and Willie, so sometimes it's just trying to find the right chemistry," Smyth said.

Is it awkward to experiment with the lines at this time of season?

"Some people would say that," Smyth said. "But with some of the injuries that have occurred, you have to try something going forward."

The Penner-Handzus-Brown line could be seen as a move to spark Penner. The big power forward had 2 goals and 3 assists in his first six games with the Kings after arriving from Edmonton, but has no points in his last seven games.

"Whenever I see that with a player of ability and talent, to me it comes down to just hard work," Murray said.

"It requires an adaptation to a new structure, a new team, a new system, and I'm very mindful of that. You get hesitant sometimes in playing the game because you just don't want to get caught out of position."

Handzus said he felt fine a day after he was hit into the end boards by Vancouver's Aaron Rome.

"It was scary, obviously, because you know you get hit and you know you're going to hit the boards at a pretty high speed," Handzus said. "I thought I was able to roll a little bit in my back so can I get (the impact) all the way in the back so I wouldn't get it in my shoulder."
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