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Lack of scoring pushes Brown to Kings' 3rd line

by Curtis Zupke

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Kings were able to grind out a low-scoring first-round Stanley Cup Playoff series against the St. Louis Blues, but the past two second-round games against the San Jose Sharks have forced coach Darryl Sutter to make changes.

Kings captain Dustin Brown was dropped to third line right wing while Kyle Clifford took his spot on the first line with Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams at practice Wednesday.

Los Angeles has scored one goal in each of the past games, each a 2-1 loss to the San Jose in that evened the Western Conference Semifinal series at two games each.

Game 5 is Thursday at Staples Center (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, RDS, TSN).

"We've scored two goals in 120 minutes, so I'm not surprised by any changes," Brown said.

Breaking up Brown and Kopitar is notable given the two have been among the League's more formidable combinations. But the Brown-Kopitar-Willliams line has one goal and one assist through four games.

"Quite honestly, the [Brown] line, they've struggled for two series, if you look at it," Sutter said.

Williams takes full ownership and when asked if the Kings' best players have been their best players in this series.

"Obviously, not," he said. "We have some guys who are stepping up. But … I mean, it's pure broken record is what it is. Scorers' got to score. If they don't score, they've got to create more offense. We've been outplayed so far, top line to top line, in the series. We're a proud bunch, and it's 2-2. We're still in a good spot here."

Sutter said Clifford might not be used on the top line, but the search for left-wing production is ongoing. The Kings' left side is a black hole, with Brown, Dustin Penner and Dwight King unable to provide offense consistently. In Game 3, the Kings used rookie Tanner Pearson at fourth-line left wing, and he played 5:44 minutes in his NHL debut.

In the new arrangement, right-handed shooting Brown would switch to the right side even though he's played left wing for most of his career.

"Probably the biggest difference is me on the right side," Brown said. "Playing with [Lewis], I played with Lew for a few shifts here and there in the series. I've never played with Kinger because we're generally both left wingers, but they're both big [hard] working guys and we're both similar. So we'll just have to grind it out down there with our size and our skill, if we hold onto pucks, and support each other, we'll have some good O-zone time, and the key to that, as a line, we have to be conscious of bringing the puck to the net."

Sutter said he is also looking for chemistry outside of the Mike Richards-Jeff Carter line, which was matched up with San Jose's Joe Thornton line for much of Games 3 and 4.

"I think we need four lines with some balance, because really other than Richie and Jeff, we really haven't been able to play anybody -- not so much play together -- but give us a little bit of energy and continuity," Sutter said.

With Game 5 back home, Sutter can get the Richards' line away from Thornton, who turned in arguably one of his career-best Stanley Cup Playoff games in Game 4. A logical choice would be to pit Kopitar against Thornton again, like it was for a lot of Games 1 and 2, although there doesn't seem to be much containing Thornton lately.

In addition to superb playmaking, Thornton has helped expose the Kings' loss of Jarret Stoll to injury. Thornton has won 39 of 56 faceoffs the past three games; Carter and Richards have won a combined 24 of 70.

"He's a big guy," Kings defenseman Robyn Regehr said of Thornton. "He uses his body quite well when he does get the puck in the offensive zone and protecting it. He's a very good passer, a very dangerous passer. If you give him time and a lot of space out there he's going to make plays. For us, whoever's playing against him out there on the ice when he's out there -- it doesn't matter if it's power play or even strength -- whatever it is, you've got to make sure you pressure him, get him stopped up, get him in a corner, try to get a little body on him. Don't let him try to play his game."

With each team having a disparate home-road record this season, the pendulum would seem to shift toward L.A., which has won 12 straight at Staples Center, including five this postseason.

"It's in our building," Williams said. "We've had success here. We need to maintain that, obviously, because they've had success at home. We won the last game of the regular season for a reason. Let's make it worth our while."

Sutter gave a passing grade on defenseman Matt Greene, who was inserted into the lineup Tuesday for the first time in the postseason. Greene returned from back surgery to play four games in the regular season, but Sutter initially didn't think he was up to speed.

Greene played more than 14 minutes in Game 4.

"I think Greener [had] a little trouble with pace early," Sutter said. "Compete kept him in it, and I think as the game went on, he played better, which was refreshing to see."

Here were the Kings' line rushes Wednesday:

Kyle CliffordAnze KopitarJustin Williams

Dustin PennerMike RichardsJeff Carter

Dwight KingTrevor LewisDustin Brown

Brad Richardson - Colin FraserTyler Toffoli / Jordan Nolan

Robyn RegehrDrew Doughty

Rob ScuderiSlava Voynov

Matt GreeneJake Muzzin

Keaton EllerbyAlec Martinez

Jonathan Bernier

Jean-Francois Berube

Goalie Jonathan Quick did not skate.

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