We’ve heard it non-stop since the NHL lockout ended, every match-up in the 48-game abbreviated schedule was going to have extra significance. And with the Kings losing their first game to Chicago, the search is on for answers and solutions prior to tomorrow night in Colorado.
One thing that was painfully obvious vs the Blackhawks was the absence of Anze Kopitar. At practice today things started to get back to normal though, as Kopitar returned to his usual role, centering the top line. Dustin Brown, who had temporarily moved to the right side of Mike Richards’ line, also was back with Kopitar – now on the left side, just like he was during the playoffs.
Coach Darryl Sutter had some choice words about his top-6 forwards just before heading to the airport, saying he needed them to “give quality minutes” instead of just “wasting time” like they did on Saturday.
He was even more direct when speaking about the lack of production from his left wings, adding “Bring it or watch.”
While he didn’t call out anybody specifically, a review of Saturday’s box score will show five shots on goal total from the four left wings combined (Dustin Penner, Simon Gagne, Dwight King and Kyle Clifford).
It may have only been one game, but when the magnifying glass comes out, it’s hard not to land on Simon Gagne. He had zero shots on goal and was a minus-3 in the game.
During practice today Gagne rotated at left wing with Penner, playing on a line with Richards and Jeff Carter. We’d expect Sutter to have Penner in that slot for tomorrow night’s game vs. the Avalanche. If for no other reason than he accounted for three of the five shots previously mentioned.
Here’s some more of what Sutter had to say today…
– Was the decision to put Anthony Stewart on waivers a decision of speed over size? “Go talk to Dean and Hexy. It’s not speed over size at all. It’s position.”
– On the high altitude in Denver possibly creating a situation where the third and fourth line guys will get more minutes tomorrow: “You know I’ve coached in high altitude in Calgary, and coached in San Jose in this division when we went to Colorado. It very seldom affected the team. It affects guys that aren’t at the conditioning level that they have to be. You cut your shifts a little shorter, it’s not really ever an issue actually. The physiology part of it, it really doesn’t affect guys until the next day or so.”
– On watching other NHL games this weekend: “Yeah, I watched lots, and Sunday too. I watched parts of every game. It’s funny, it’s like we’re two different leagues because we’re not going to play the other conference…So it’s fun to watch.”
– On several high-profile goalies struggling this weekend: “Well, you know what? As I said after the game the other night, we had a lot of guys that struggled. I hear all the stuff – ‘we’re back’ and all that stuff. You know, all that sexy, rah-rah, kumbaya stuff. The problem is, we’re not the same team, we’re a different team. Goaltenders are probably the most important guys that haven’t played for a long time, so that’s the interesting thing. We need Jonathan (Quick) to move on in a hurry. But if you watch some games, there’s big rebounds, funny saves and a lot of goals. Even talking the other day, the last goal (vs the Blackhawks) deflected off (Martinez) too. One went off Drew, one went off Marty. But at the same time, deflections are part of the game right? If they were in that full game mode, those top guys are going to have those deflections too. That’s why they’re top guys.”
Besides Kopitar’s return to the top line, the most noticeable change at practice today came within the two power play units. We talked with Dustin Brown, Drew Doughty and Justin Williams about the changes here.
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