Kings sit Justin Williams, Randy Jones for Game 2 vs. Vancouver
Kings Coach Terry Murray, eager to avoid returning home with a two-game deficit in his team's playoff series against the Vancouver Canucks, made two significant lineup changes for Game 2 tonight at GM Place.
Out are mistake-prone defenseman Randy Jones and -- even more surprising -- right wing Justin Williams, a 2006 Stanley Cup winner who had been playing on the top line with Ryan Smyth and Anze Kopitar.
Also out is enforcer Raitis Ivanans, who played only five minutes and 48 seconds of the Kings' 3-2 overtime loss on Thursday.
In are Richard Clune and Scott Parse, who will be on either side of Jeff Halpern on the new fourth line, and defenseman Peter Harrold, who will be paired with Jack Johnson. Clune, Parse and Harrold will each be making his Stanley Cup playoff debut.
Williams, though clearly unhappy about being scratched, declined to say much.
"It's about the Kings and Canucks tonight, not about me right now," he said.
Williams, twice a 30-goal scorer for Carolina, has struggled to regain his old form after breaking his ankle on Dec. 26. He had only two goals in 16 games after his return and he mishandled a pass Thursday that led to a Vancouver goal.
Jones has never been the same since he suffered what the team called an upper-body injury -- likely a concussion -- in December in a collision with Edmonton's Dustin Penner. He was responsible for the turnover that gave the Canucks a long possession that produced Mikael Samuelsson's winner on Thursday, but Murray said his decision to pull Jones and Williams was based on more than their Game 1 performances.
"I need them to be more ... to have a bigger bite of the game," Murray said after the Kings' morning skate. "Both players are veteran guys. We added players such as Williams and Jones to be important players at this time of the year and I think Williams' side, unfortunately with his severe leg injury, he's worked very hard to get himself back to the level he was playing before the injury and there have been games that I've seen that play but it's just not there right now.
"It's a very drastic move, I know. It's a hard move for a coach to make. It's one of the hardest things you do as a coach, take a veteran player out of the lineup and try to get the player to understand why. But it's Game 2. Right now it's about winning the game. It's not about feelings. I'm trying to do the right thing to help the Los Angeles Kings win this second game."
He also said that while he liked Ivanans' performance in the first period on Thursday he couldn't afford to have so limited a player in the lineup. He can give Clune, Halpern and Parse more ice time because they have more dimensions to their game.
"I'm looking at making a change on that fourth line to give me an opportunity to play some more minutes from that group," Murray said. "Four minutes, five minutes with Raitis only and I think I can go deeper in the game with that kind of look."
Simmonds has played on the top line several times this season, with reasonable results. His grit, solid defensive play and competitiveness along the boards should help a team that wants to increase the intensity of its forechecking and get in quickly on the Canucks' battered defense corps.
"Simmonds is a guy who's going to battle hard, compete hard. He gets pucks stopped," Murray said. "He's good on the forecheck, and that's the kind of attitude that I want to see from him and that line here tonight. He's been playing a pretty solid game throughout the year and he's really responded to being move to that line so I'm hoping for good things from it and from him in particular tonight."
Kopitar said the change "caught me a little off guard, for sure. To be honest I didn't see it coming right away but he's got reasons for it and he obviously wants to make something happen and change something up and those are the changes he made."
Harrold said he was excited to get the chance to play. Clune, an agitator and scrappy winger, was prepared to skate through a wall after watching Game 1 from the press box.
"I'm ready to wreak some havoc," he said. "I don't want to say too much. I think you guys know what I'm going to bring and I'll keep that to myself.
"It''s going to be a battle. When I watched the last game you'd do anything to get out there and if there's any time for me to step up it's now."
The only shame is that he won't have any family in the stands. Though he said he had bought a $500 ticket for his dad's boss' best buddy.
"I'd go buy a homeless guy on the street tickets to come watch me as long as I had one fan in the building," he said. "It's going to be intense. Use any cliche you want. It's playoffs. It's not even comparable to the season. I'm an adrenaline player and I'm going to feed off it."
More later on the impact of these changes during Game 2, at www.latimes.com/sports
Helene Elliott, reporting from Vancouver, Canada
Photo: Scrappy winger Richard Clune delivers a blow to Nashville's Jordin Tootoo during a regular-season game last month. Credit: Victor Decolongon / Getty Images