With preseason over, Kings face personnel decisions
As far as the Kings were concerned, the best thing about their 3-2 loss to the Ducks on Sunday, in both teams' exhibition finale, was that it was the end of exhibition season and that their next game, Saturday at Vancouver, will mean something.
"It’s more fun when you're playing for something real. It’s been a long one," said Brad Richardson, who appears set to start at left wing on the second line while Scott Parse recovers from a groin injury.
"I guess it's been a month that we've all been itching to get at it and prove we're the team that everyone is predicting we're going to be."
More is expected from the Kings after their 101-point performance last season. Richardson isn't fazed.
"We've put a lot of expectations on ourselves," he said. "We had a great year last year, but we’ve gotten better and we're ready for bigger things. We're all excited."
Coach Terry Murray said he would meet with General Manager Dean Lombardi and assistant GM Ron Hextall Sunday night and Monday to determine the final makeup of the roster. Players will have Monday off.
"I think everybody in the league is sighing a bit of relief that it's over and the real stuff starts," Murray said.
"I feel good about our camp. Really good. The hard work was put in, and the games were intense. There was structure and system, and everybody paid attention and did a lot of good things out there. We played a lot of young players in critical situations, important situations, and I was real pleased how they performed."
Murray has said he plans to carry 14 forwards, seven defensemen and two goalies. Peter Harrold, who can play both forward and defense, provides extra flexibility in case a defenseman is injured and a replacement can't arrive in time from the Kings' Manchester, N.H., farm team.
Excluding injured players, one player on waivers (John Zeiler) and goaltender Erik Ersberg, who lost the backup job to Jonathan Bernier and is likely to be put on waivers Monday, the Kings have 16 forwards, seven defensemen and two goalies in camp. Parse is in that group, but he has been off the ice a week and might start the season on injured reserve.
The competition essentially has been for two spots on the fourth line, where Murray has already given a spot at right wing to enforcer Kevin Westgarth.
"Players made quite a mark for themselves right from the very beginning," Murray said. "I would say the other part of it is no one showed that they’re not deserving of an opportunity to play, and that's where the hard decisions have to come from now."
Kyle Clifford seems to have an edge on the left side, but Rich Clune is nearly four years older and has paid his dues in the minor leagues, a big point with Murray and Lombardi. The tough choice will be at center between Andrei Loktionov and Brayden Schenn. Murray indicated that he won't keep both.
He singled out Loktionov's performance on the power play Sunday. "He’s just so deceptive. He's a very instinctive, naturally skilled player. It's great to have that kind of a player in a special-team situation," Murray said.
"On the other side, you’ve got Schenn, who can play that kind of a game and he gives you a little bit more of an edge. [They're] 19, 20 years old. It’s pretty nice to have those guys in the organization with the potential that they have."
The answer should be delivered Monday or Tuesday.
-- Helene Elliott