Kings' version of 'What's My Line' might be ending
Greetings from Nashville, where there's a Western wear store on nearly every block downtown and the next Taylor Swift might have been singing at Tootsies Orchid Lounge this afternoon.
There was a bit of news before the game, and it should delight the many fans who question why Coach Terry Murray has juggled his lines so often.
Murray said before the Kings faced Nashville at the recently renamed Bridgestone Arena that he's going to start keeping lines together -- or, at least, two members of a line with one winger subject to change according to how certain players are playing or according to the situation.
He said he planned to start Tuesday by restoring Justin Williams to the right side with Anze Kopitar and Ryan Smyth, a combination that was hot at the start of the season but lost Smyth and then Williams to long-term injuries and hasn't been the same since they were reunited.
Although he said he "didn't see what I needed to see" from Smyth, Kopitar and Williams in Monday's loss at Minnesota, he said he will keep that trio together in hopes their old connection will resurface and create some sparks offensively. He acknowledged that his experiment with Jeff Halpern on the right side didn't succeed.
"I’m not putting responsibility on any one player, but Williams, Smyth and Kopitar have had really good success. They’ve had really good chemistry. And this is a critical time here in our schedule and in our season, and I think familiarity might play into this and I’m hoping it does," Murray said.
"Their game two games ago, they started to show some signs but nothing happened, so I made a change with Halpern to give him that look. He was playing with [Vincent] Lecavalier and [Ryan] Malone and playing pretty well and if you take advantage of that, but it just didn’t work, so I'm going to go back with Williams."
For the playoffs -- assuming the Kings get there, and entering Tuesday's game their magic number was eight points they earn or eight points Calgary doesn't earn -- Murray said he has his lines mapped out.
"I’d like to go with Kopitar. I’d like to go with Zus [Michal Handzus] and with Simmer [Wayne Simmonds] on the right side. I’m leaning more towards [Alexander] Frolov there," Murray said. "Again, a line that’s familiar with each other, that we had together at the start of the year. And I’ve had [Jarret] Stoll and [Dustin] Brown and on the left side we had Teddy Purcell at the beginning and we've been filling in with different players."
He's not sure how he will deploy Fredrik Modin, who has been scoreless since scoring three goals in his first five games after being acquired from Columbus.
"I’m waiting for him to get back to where he was at the start. He did have an impact with us right away. And now he seems to have taken a step back," Murray said.
"And that leaves that fourth line that you can put together with [Brad] Richardson, with [Scott] Parse. You can put [Richard] Clune in there, you can put Halpern in. If somebody’s not going I think I’ve got some flexibility now to move players into different positions. So that would be the ideal scenario. That’s what I’d like to work to as quickly as possible."
From tonight on, besides the Smyth-Kopitar-Williams line, he intends to keep Simmonds with Handzus, and to keep Stoll with Brown and possibly Modin. "Two on each line that will be pretty consistent," he said.
Defenseman Keith Jones, who missed Monday's game because of a cut and sore elbow, returned Tuesday. That left Peter Harrold as a healthy scratch, along with Raitis Ivanans, Davis Drewiske and Clune.
Jonathan Bernier was the starter, with Jonathan Quick as the backup. Murray said he hadn't been told by General Manager Dean Lombardi whether Bernier will accompany the team back to Los Angeles after the game. Bernier was recalled from Manchester of the American Hockey League on Monday on an emergency basis after Erik Ersberg developed a back strain.
More later at www.latimes.com/sports
-- Helene Elliott, in Nashville