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Kings tweak lineup in hopes of staving off elimination

by Rick Sadowski
SAN JOSE, Calif. – The Los Angeles Kings are making lineup and line changes Saturday night at HP Pavilion in an attempt to stave off elimination in their Western Conference Quarterfinal series with the San Jose Sharks.

Down 3-1 in the series, Kings coach Terry Murray has chosen to insert left wing Scott Parse in the lineup and use him on a line with Michal Handzus and Justin Williams.

Dustin Penner, who has been a major disappointment since his trading deadline acquisition from Edmonton, will play on a line with Jarret Stoll and Kevin Westgarth.

"I think I'm overthinking a lot," Penner, who has a single assist and is a minus-4 in the series, said Saturday morning. "With a new team I'm not going out there and doing the things that got me here. Everybody is frustrated."

Ryan Smyth will skate alongside Trevor Lewis and Dustin Brown, with the Kyle Clifford-Brad Richardson-Wayne Simmonds unit remaining intact.        

Alexei Ponikarovsky, who scored a goal in Game 4, and Oscar Moller will be healthy scratches.

"It's a little bit of a risk, but I haven't been getting enough from the top line on that left side, from the productive side of it," Murray said of the changes. "Parse has ability, has skill, so I'm going to take that look tonight."

Parse, 26, hasn't played since Nov. 15 after suffering a hip injury that required surgery. A 5-foot-11, 188-pounder, Parse had 1 goal and 3 assists in five games when he went on injured reserve. He had 11 goals and 13 assists in 59 games with the Kings in 2009-10.

"I've been skating hard for the past three weeks, so I was hoping to return in these playoffs some time," Parse said. "I'm good to go. I'm excited."

Team defense – or the lack of it -- has been a major problem for the Kings since they took a 4-0 lead 44 seconds into the second period of Game 3. The Sharks have outscored the Kings 12-4 since then in winning two games in a row.

"We need to be better defensively … obviously," Parse said. "You can't give up six goals a game."

Murray said the Kings have been "out of sync" in the defensive end. He mentioned the goal center Joe Thornton scored early in the third period of Game 4 that gave the Sharks a 4-2 lead after the Kings had cut a 3-0 deficit to 3-2.

"We had nobody in front of the net," Murray said. "That hasn't happened to us in three years. When you get into the critical games we've done a very good job of checking and reading and reacting the right way. Those are the plays that I'm looking at that are a concern, and we have to clean it up tonight.

"The thing that I really want to see us do now is get back to our game. I think we're really out of character in what we've been doing – the puck management, the turnovers in the neutral zone that are coming right back at us, the D-zone coverage. We're just out of sync here.

"We're chasing, we're putting pucks in our own net. We're just not in the flow of the game the way we've shown over the last couple of years. Sometimes you have a bad three days and I'm hoping that's the proper way to look at it right now. San Jose came into our building and won both games, so we need to bounce back here with our best effort."

Murray emphasized that the Kings need contributions from all four lines to counteract the Sharks' depth up front.

"They've got three dominant lines, three lines that are probably as good as any team in the National Hockey League," he said. "They can play any way you want and any way they want. So it's important for us to play four lines.

"When you have your top guy out of the lineup like this," Murray added, referring to injured center Anze Kopitar, "everybody has to dig in, check the proper way and play hard every shift."
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