Evaluating coach Terry Murray’s new line combinations

All the talk about coach Terry Murray’s re-shuffling of the lines today reminded me of a conversation I had with Andrei Loktionov last Monday.

It was the team’s first practice since their loss to Detroit two days prior and I had asked him about being moved back to center during the third period of that game…

“I feel more comfortable there,” he immediately said. “When I played center, I took more shots. I think I had three shots. So, it’s a little bit more comfortable for me.”

He also shared a few thoughts on playing with Mike Richards – “It’s good. He’s a good player. When he has the puck he gives it to you, then he moves around. I love playing with him.”

Well, he can ‘love’ it all he wants. But, the fact remains Loktionov’s numbers haven’t been what the Kings are looking for (just two assists in six games since his recall). Hence the changes today.

Which then reminded me of something else Loktionov had told me after he showed up in town a few weeks ago. Back in Manchester, he had been playing with Brandon Kozun and Jordan Nolan.

So, now, let’s revisit the line combinations suggested here on MayorsManor recently and compare then to what Murray did earlier today.

Suggested on November 7th:

Dustin Penner – Anze Kopitar – Dustin Brown
Simon Gagne – Mike Richards – Justin Williams
Kyle Clifford – Jarret Stoll – Brad Richardson
Ethan Moreau – Trevor Lewis – Kevin Westgarth

Of course, since that time Penner injured his hand and Loktionov was summoned from the AHL.

Today, Murray went with the following lines at practice:

Dustin Brown – Anze Kopitar – Trent Hunter
Simon Gagne – Mike Richards – Jarret Stoll
Kyle Clifford – Andrei Loktionov – Justin Williams
Ethan Moreau – Colin Fraser – Kevin Westgarth

A few thoughts and comments…

- Getting Williams off the top line, check.  Reuniting Brown with Kopitar, check.  Putting Gagne with Richards, check. Giving Westgarth some more playing time as the 4RW, check.

- Hunter? He’s a place holder, most likely for one game. Penner has been cleared and he should be back in the line-up on Thursday vs. Florida. Where should Murray put him? On the left side of Kopitar, for all the reasons explained in the original article.

- Loktionov needs to be at center, for the reasons listed above. However, go back to his comment about who he was playing with in Manch – Nolan (tough winger) and Kozun (speedy winger, who can finish). Clifford fills the Nolan role now, but Justin Williams may be the wrong guy for Loktionov. In fairness, it’s a move that I never would have thought of and am curious to see if it will work. However, my gut says Stoll might be the better option there – and best of all, he’s more similar to Kozun.

[Note: When Penner comes back into the line-up the Kings will need to make a roster move.  To keep Loktionov up, somebody else has to go on IR, waivers or be sent to Manchester.  If it's Loktionov who is sent down, go back to the third line originally suggested - Clifford with Stoll and Richardson.  That would also allow Fraser to keep the 4C spot.]

- On the fourth line, Fraser is fine at center. However, Murray’s current lines have Richardson on the outside looking in and he needs to get into the line-up.  He’s a better center than he is a wing. So, he should probably get the 4C slot (again, assuming Loktionov is in LA, thus there’s no room for Richardson on the third line).  Fraser, Hunter, Lewis and Moreau can thumb wrestle for the 4LW slot. Lewis is untested there. Moreau has come under heavy criticism lately. Hunter is a right wing. And Fraser is a center. So, take your pick.

In fact, what would you do?  Not just on the fourth line, but with all the lines?  Adding a comment below is easy – you can even use your facebook profile. Try it, you’ll like it.

The Mayor
www.twitter.com/MayorNHL
www.facebook.com/MayorsManor

RELATED ARTICLES:

Loktionov on playing with Kozun and Nolan in Manchester

Kozun puts the ball in the Kings court

Interview with Jordan Nolan - LA Kings 2009 NHL Draft pick

Mike Richards on his latest left wings, Stoll and Loktionov

Kings coach Murray not a fan of Moreau slashing ‘his buddy’

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