Kings need Simmonds to get moving
From the day Wayne Simmonds appeared at his first Kings training camp in 2008 and won a spot on the roster with his feisty, energetic play, there has been little reason to criticize the young right wing’s play.
But in the three games the Kings (2-1) played before they face the Vancouver Canucks Friday at Staples Center, Simmonds was pretty much a non-factor. He hasn’t won as many puck battles as usual, hasn’t recorded a point, has only four shots on goal and simply hasn’t been, well, the Simmonds that fans have come to love -- a solid, tough, two-way player whose 16-goal, 40-point performance last season hinted at potential for 25 goals or even a few more.
And he knows it.
“The first two games for myself I don’t think I played the best hockey that I could possibly play,” he said Friday morning after the team’s game-day skate in El Segundo. “I think I picked it up a bit the next game but it’s the beginning of the season. We’ve got 79 games left. I’m not in panic mode.
“I think I’ve just got to get back to playing my game, moving my feet, and I think things will start rolling from there.”
Simmonds is accustomed to having Michal Handzus as his center but said having Alexei Ponikarovsky on the left side instead of Alexander Frolov -- who departed as a free agent last summer -- has created an adjustment period.
“It’s a bit different playing with a new guy but Poni’s a big boy," Simmonds said referring to Ponikarovsky. "He plays the same kind of game we play. We’ve been together since the beginning of training camp so we should start to see results shortly.”
Coach Terry Murray said he’s concerned about Simmonds’ scoring chances -- or, more accurately, the lack of those chances.
“I need Simmer to be a better player than what he is right now. We’ve had a couple of meetings, he and I, and the assistant coaches have sat down and reviewed some video,” Murray said.
“The most important thing for him is to get his feet going, get skating better on a more consistent basis. When he’s playing that straight-line game with an edge with grit and battling along the boards, that’s the best kind of player. Right now he seems to be a little hesitant in his game and as a result you get caught in-between and it looks real bad.
“So I’m hoping for a big effort here tonight on that side of it. That’s the focus that we want him to go into this game with. Simply move your feet, stay on top of it and I think other things will fall in place.”
Murray said he has made some points to Ponikarovsky too.
“I want the line to be better. I think Poni’s got some habits that we’re addressing with him that we want to see with the puck. We want him to have the puck longer,” Murray said.
“He’s a big guy that can protect the puck on the cycle, hold onto it for four-, five-second stretches and work the opponent down deep in the offensive zone. That was the strength of that line last year.
“But it is not related to what Simmer, what we just talked about. That’s on him. That’s the focus that he needs to put into it as an individual and get himself on track.”
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-- Helene Elliott