Kings are mixing up lines ahead of matchup with Coyotes

Kings are mixing up lines ahead of matchup with Coyotes
Kings' Tanner Pearson, left, celebrates a goal by Tyler Toffoli (73) during the second period of a game against the Sharks on Dec. 22, 2015. (Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

When the Kings were in Arizona late last month, Coach Darryl Sutter talked about the line of Milan Lucic-Anze Kopitar-Tyler Toffoli.

He praised their chemistry and goal-scoring output since they were put together after center Jeff Carter suffered an injury Dec. 26.


But there are two things to remember in the NHL:

• The landscape can shift significantly in the span of three games.

• It's a coach's prerogative to change his mind.

The Kings practiced in El Segundo on Monday, their first session together after the All-Star break. Goaltender Jonathan Quick and defenseman Drew Doughty, the team's All-Star representatives, had the day off.

The surprise was the reunion of "That '70s Line" — Tanner Pearson-Carter-Toffoli. The trio helped spark the Kings during their 2014 run to the Stanley Cup. Last season, they combined for 14 goals and 30 points during a 6-0 homestand in October.

They've had turns together this season but not for lengthy periods. Sutter wants to sort out line combinations before the Kings leave for a seven-game trip next week, using Tuesday night's game at Arizona and Thursday's game against the Ducks to do so.

"You know what, Ty is pretty flexible. He's either going to play with Kopi or Jeff," Sutter said. "We'll see how it goes. With Looch [Lucic] being suspended one game, and Looch, Kopi and Ty haven't been as sharp.

"Jeff is slowly getting back into form since his injury. If you look at the individual stats part, our record in January was 6-5-1. A lot of it was related to a lot of our top guys didn't have great months. So we'll switch it up."

Pearson, who has six goals and 21 points, knows he is being handed an opportunity with the stretch run looming. The speediness of the line could help, especially against the Coyotes' quickness.

"I've got to start taking the puck to the net more," Pearson said. "Even when you take the puck to the net, you may not score but you want to create something whether it's a rebound or whatnot or someone else can get a goal."

Kopitar was centering Lucic and Marian Gaborik. Lucic was suspended for one game after he sucker-punched Coyotes defenseman Kevin Connauton on Jan. 23, and sat out the Kings' come-from-behind victory the next night at San Jose. The Kings lost three of their last four games before the All-Star break.

Kopitar had two assists in those four games, and Toffoli had one assist. Lucic didn't have any points in his last three games before the break.

Kyle Clifford update

Left wing Kyle Clifford, who has been out since Dec. 6 because of concussion symptoms, returned from his two-game conditioning assignment with the Ontario Reign of the American Hockey League and practiced with the Kings.

"You can practice all you want but it's never going to replicate game situations," he said.

Said Sutter: "It's best for him to go play. He hasn't played much this year. He's played 26 games. But if you add it up, in terms of minutes played, he's played four games this year. He's in a competition with five or six other guys to see what our lineup is."



When: Tuesday, 6 p.m. PST.

Where: Gila River Arena

On the air: TV: FS West. Radio: 790.

Update: Coyotes Coach Dave Tippett, a former assistant with the Kings, will coach his 1,000th NHL game, the 24th man to accomplish that feat.