Kings' pregame: Playing "the L.A. Kings way," according to Coach Terry Murray
First, some basics:
There's no update yet on defenseman Matt Greene, who suffered a lower-body injury in a third-period fight Saturday. At the moment, it appears he will be out a while, but no one from the Kings is being specific.
Erik Ersberg will start in goal tonight instead of Jonathan Quick,who had a less-than-spectacular game against St. Louis on Saturday. Ersberg was the starter for the Kings' win at San Jose on Dec. 9, part of their 3-0-1 record against the Sharks entering Monday's game.
The lines will be scrambled. At least initially, Coach Terry Murray plans to use Alexander Frolov with Anze Kopitar and Scott Parse; Ryan Smyth withJarret Stoll and Wayne Simmonds; Brad Richardson on the left with Michal Handzus and Dustin Brown, and Raitis Ivanans, Oscar Moller and Brandon Segal.
Murray said he will use the Handzus line against the Sharks' formidable line of Dany Heatley, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, at least at first. He said he has enough confidence in Kopitar's line to match big line against big line, but added, "If I can get him against another line that maybe is not an impact line like Thornton then we can see some more offense on that side of it and I’ll give that a look at the start of the game." Translation: he's aware that Kopitar, after scoring 32 points in the Kings' fist 22 games, has scored only 11 points in the subsequent 23.
Murray held lengthy talks with players Sunday in small and large groups and explained to them his reasons for mixing up the lines.
"It’s all about getting some focus back to play the game the L.A. Kings way from the start of the game right through to the end," he said. "I thought the St. Louis game we kind of felt our way into it. Waded into the game in that first period, and then you have to push extra hard in the third to get it back. It’s a 60-minute game and it requires everybody’s attention and everybody’s intensity for that time."
Asked to define "the L.A. Kings way," his voice became louder and his tone intense.
"Knowing one of the strengths of your game," he said. "We talked about checking all the time last year to get that as the foundation part of it. Making hard plays through the middle of the ice to know that the forecheck and cycle game is one of our strengths. We’re a very good offensive zone-playing team, getting on loose pucks, cycling, getting plays to the net. We need to make strong plays through the middle of the ice in order for that to happen. It cannot be a one-man show going and trying to do it by himself and getting into a transition game.
"That, to me, is really important. On the other part of it now, you’re responsible also on the checking side of it. I think we’re No. 3 in the league in shots against and that’s pretty damned good, and that to me reinforces that we’re doing the right thing on the checking part of it. And that’s our MO.
"Those are the two things that we want to do, and when I talk about this with the players, it’s, ‘You do this every game. You do this every shift. It doesn’t matter if you’re down by three goals. It doesn’t matter if you’re down by four goals. You play the same way. You don’t get rattled, you don’t show mental weakness and get frazzled and get nervous, you stick with it. And if you don’t win the game tonight you come back and play exactly the same way tomorrow on a consistent basis and you will win. You will win many more games than what you’ll lose if you come in and stick with that attitude.
"And that’s the hardest selling point that a coach has. It’s to convince the players that this way is our way and you have to make sure that when the heat is on and there’s an urgency to take advantage of a critical moment in the game you’re going to have the composure, the poise, the mental awareness to do it. I see that with top teams. I watch the New Jersey Devils. I coached against them many times. I watched Detroit over the years. This is how good teams play. This is how you develop a culture and a solid organization."
Enough talk. Time to play the game.
More later at www.latimes.com/sports
-- Helene Elliott