Kings' morning skate: Mostly quiet on the Western front
The Kings had a quiet and optional morning skate Monday, and Coach Terry Murray said he’s likely to make most of the remaining game-day skates optional in order to help players conserve energy.
Defenseman Rob Scuderi, who appeared to injure his ankle late Saturday and didn’t practice Sunday, is expected to play. Murray said Scuderi skated early Monday morning “and tried everything out,” and gave the thumbs-up sign upon leaving the ice.
Murray said the lines and defense pairs will remain the same as they were for the team’s 4-3 victory Saturday at Phoenix, which would leave Andrei Loktionov on the left with Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown, Ryan Smyth with Jarret Stoll and Justin Williams, Kyle Clifford with Trevor Lewis and Wayne Simmonds, and Brad Richardson with Michal Handzus and Alexei Ponikarovsky.
On defense, Willie Mitchell will pair with Drew Doughty, Scuderi with Jack Johnson and Matt Greene with Alec Martinez. Jonathan Quick will start in goal.
“Win, I don’t want to change too much here,” Murray said. “It was a good effort --very good effort the other night. Go back over it and review it, there were some great decisions made with the puck. Offensive-zone play obviously, and I like the tempo. And the attitude of compete was real good, so we’re going to stay with the lineup and hopefully bring the same kind of game.”
One thing that could use changing is the Kings’ power play, which is 0 for 22 over seven games and through Sunday’s games had slipped to 19th in the NHL, with a 16.7% success rate. The league average through Sunday was 18.3%.
Doughty and Johnson were an effective power-play duo in the playoffs, but Murray said he doesn’t plan to reunite them — at least not yet.
“It’s tempting but I think we’re going to hang in there with the same group right now,” he said. “You reinforce the five-on-five play that we showed the other night with the goals that were going in from the back end, and it’s the same kind of a look that you want to have on the power play.
“That’s where we’re running into a little bit of a situation, I believe, where it comes up top and we’re still waiting for those passes to be coming back down low, guys waiting on the goal line on that strong side. Actually that player should be coming to the front of the net, coming to the high slot and you’re not an option. So up top, the puck has to be handled with the umbrella look and take it to the net looking for rebounds. That’s just a play off the puck that we need to get better at, to be more consistent at. And I think whenever you eliminate the options on the puck movement it forces things to come to the net.”
Check back for more at www.latimes.com/sports, including some musings by Murray on the Kings’ defensemen making more offensive contributions lately.
-- Helene Elliott