Johnson, Mitchell to play as Kings go for record
The Kings, who tied a club record Thursday by earning a point for the 11th consecutive game (8-0-3), can set a record Saturday if they continue the streak against the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum.
They will make the attempt with a full lineup: Defensemen Willie Mitchell and Jack Johnson, who missed practice on Friday, said they were ready to play Saturday. The Kings are 5-0-3 on this trip and have points in nine straight road games (6-0-3), two short of the longest road point streak in team history.
“I’m good. I had some bumps and bruises that I needed to address [Friday],” Johnson said Saturday after participating in the team’s morning skate.
Mitchell also skated Saturday morning and said he felt fine.
“Just a bit of a bruise from last game,” he said. “Everything’s working good today.”
The rest of the lineup will stay as Coach Terry Murray had it in practice Friday. The lines will be Ryan Smyth-Jarret Stoll-Justin Williams; Brad Richardson-Anze Kopitar-Wayne Simmonds; Kyle Clifford-Michal Handzus-Dustin Brown, and Alexei Ponikarovsky-Trevor Lewis-Kevin Westgarth. The defense pairs will be Mitchell-Drew Doughty, Johnson-Rob Scuderi, and Alec Martinez-Matt Greene.
Murray said he reviewed video of the Kings’ 4-3 shootout loss to the New York Rangers on Thursday to confirm his impressions that Andrei Loktionov had not played well defensively. The rookie center had a 0 plus/minus rating but he did lose eight of nine faceoffs.
“He got exposed a little bit in some of those important situations,” Murray said, “so just back away this game and give him a little bit of a break.”
The Kings can’t afford to back off against the Islanders, even though this is the last real road game of their 10 straight games away from Staples Center. Their actual road finale and last away game until March 9, is Wednesday at Anaheim.
“You’ve got to bring a good game here tonight. There’s no way you can allow yourself to be ambushed,” Murray said.
“We’ve got to follow this up with what we’ve been doing over the road trip. You can make it a great road trip by doing the right thing with the right kind of intensity and be prepared to play from the start of the game.”
Mitchell agreed that the Kings need to finish this journey on a good note.
“To play so well and then not have a good performance tonight would really kind of sting a little bit,” he said. “I think it’s a game we’re ready for. There’s significance as far as concluding a good road trip.
“I thought the game in Columbus was probably our biggest trap game, so to speak, of the trip, and by trap I mean just mental trap, where you’re sitting around for two days coming off two emotional wins at Washington and Philadelphia, and I think this one we’ll be much more ready. We look for a young hockey team with a lot of energy, with guys trying to prove things and those teams are really dangerous, so we have to play a smart game against them and hopefully have a young team with a lot of new faces make some mistakes.”
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-- Helene Elliott in Uniondale, N.Y.