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Doughty suspension leads to new-look blue line for Kings in Game 2

Defenseman Gravel makes debut, pairings shuffled against Golden Knights

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / NHL Columnist

LAS VEGAS -- The Los Angeles Kings will play without three of their top four defensemen against the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 2 of the Western Conference First Round at T-Mobile Arena on Friday (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVAS, ATTSN-RM, PRIME).

The Kings trail the best-of-7 series 1-0.

Drew Doughty will serve a one-game suspension for an illegal check to the head on forward William Carrier in Game 1. Carrier, who did not return after the third-period hit, is a game-time decision Friday after taking part in the morning skate, according to Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant.

 

[RELATED: Doughty suspension will test Kings depth | Complete Golden Knights vs. Kings series coverage]

 

Jake Muzzin (upper body) skated in a non-contact jersey Friday and is doubtful, Kings coach John Stevens said. Derek Forbort (lower body) did not skate. Doughty (26:50), Muzzin (21:39) and Forbort (20:47) were first, second and fourth, respectively, in average ice time during the regular season among Kings defensemen.

Doughty played 28:02 in Game 1 with six shot attempts and six blocked shots.

After veterans Alec Martinez and Dion Phaneuf, the Kings will play four defensemen with five games of Stanley Cup Playoff experience combined: Kevin Gravel will be making his NHL playoff debut, Oscar Fantenberg and Paul LaDue have each played one game and Christian Folin has three.
 
"What we decided to do is, when the game starts tonight, we're going to put two [defensemen] on the ice," Stevens said. "We get a power play or a penalty kill, we're going to put two [defensemen] on the ice.

"We checked with the League, and we're pretty sure that they're going to keep the puck the same size and Vegas is only going to be allowed to put five guys on the ice unless they pull their goalie. They can put a sixth attacker on the ice. So, I think we're good to go."

No four forwards on the power play?

"That's an option," Stevens said. "But we feel pretty good about the guys coming in that they can give us some valuable minutes in those situations, like they have all year."

Based on the morning skate, Fantenberg will pair with Martinez, who will move to the right side and take Doughty's spot. Phaneuf will remain with LaDue. Gravel will be paired with Folin.

"We have so many great defensemen in this system, guys that on other teams would be in the lineup," Doughty said. "It just so happens we're so deep at the defense position. We've got some guys that are young and they have a good opportunity with three of our top four [defensemen] out of the lineup. They have a great opportunity, and they're going to play awesome."

Gravel, 26, had three assists in 16 games for the Kings this season.

"Obviously you want to play in big situations, and it doesn't get bigger than the playoffs," Gravel said. "It's unfortunate that [Doughty's] out, but it's an opportunity for someone else to step in. It's going to take a collective effort here from everyone to pick up that slack."

Video: BOS@LAK: Gravel scores PPG for first NHL goal

Stevens said the Kings carried extra defensemen for this reason.

"We look at it as a real opportunity for these guys to come in and play and show us what they can do," Stevens said. "Every kid wants to play in this situation. Every kid wants to play this time of year. They've worked extremely hard off the ice to stay ready so they can help us in this situation.

"As much as we'd love to have Drew in our lineup tonight, the LA Kings are still forging ahead here. This is a big game for us, and the bottom line is, aside from all that other stuff, we need to play better as a hockey team."

Stevens likely will make other changes. Based on the morning skate, Tanner Pearson will replace Alex Iafallo on the left wing on the top line with Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown. The bottom-six forwards will shuffle. Trevor Lewis, Adrian Kempe and Kyle Clifford will be the third line; Michael Amadio, Nate Thompson and Torrey Mitchell will be the fourth.

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