TAMPA, Fla. – Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi was getting a chuckle out of Darryl Sutter’s methods on this four-game trip.
He brought up Hall of Fame coach Scotty Bowman, who was legendary for his mind games and the ability to keep the media and the opposing team -- and his players -- guessing.
Sutter had put center Anze Kopitar and right wing Jeff Carter on a line in practice on Monday with left wing Dwight King. By Tuesday morning, Carter was back with his usual linemate center Mike Richards, and Kopitar was back with captain Dustin Brown and Justin Williams.
Dinners have lasted longer than the Kopitar-Carter line combination.
Carter, greatly amused about the guessing games, joked after the morning skate: “Better delete those articles.”
Sutter, in fact, said he had wanted to give Kopitar the day off on Monday. But Kopitar, who hasn’t scored this season, is a consummate professional and wanted to practice. Maintenance days are a rare thing for Kopitar.
Richards and Carter, who have a combined nine points, have recognizable chemistry and the Kings have won three straight games, heading into Tuesday night’s contest against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The idea of Kopitar with Carter had been an intriguing one because they are the team’s top two scorers. It could happen, down the road, a more likely option at home where the Kings get the last change.
Last season was essentially a lost season for Kings defensemen Willie Mitchell and Matt Greene. Mitchell missed all of it because of lingering knee issues and Greene, who had back surgery, returned late in the regular season.
They have been gaining a measure of consistency. Mitchell is averaging about 22 minutes of ice time and Greene’s average is 16:15. Greene is a plus-one and has a goal, and Mitchell is a minus-one and has an assist.
“I think both of them have shown signs of improvement lately, but they’ve also shown signs of long layoff,” Sutter said. “Greener played a little bit in the playoffs for us but never really got up to speed."
ALSO:Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times