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Lack of Size Evident at Center

Some plans that didn’t reach fruition are beginning to haunt the Kings, who find themselves shy at center.

Jozef Stumpel, the team point leader with 79 last season, has been out because of an injury since the season’s fourth game, and that’s one reason the Kings are having trouble scoring.

“We’re not very big up the middle,” Coach Larry Robinson said Saturday. “The guys are trying, but we’re not very big. Guys like Yanic Perreault [5 feet 11, 188 pounds] and Ray Ferraro [5-9, 193] and Russ Courtnall [5-11, 185], how are they going to battle with [Tampa Bay’s Andrei] Nazarov?”

That’s just what they tried to do in the slot Friday night in the Lightning’s 3-0 victory. At 6-5, 230 pounds, Nazarov threw his weight around well.

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The Kings believed they had an answer as late as a month ago. “Olli [Jokinen] would have helped, but he’s not ready yet,” Robinson said.

Jokinen, who is 6-3 and 208 pounds, was sent to Springfield to bridge the gap between the game he learned in Finland and the North American game.

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Expect newcomer Eric Lacroix, a winger, and Garry Galley, a frequent scratch as a defenseman, to play tonight against Phoenix.

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“We need to get Garry in there,” said Robinson, who is aware that Galley, a 15-year veteran, is not happy about being scratched from eight of the first 10 games. “We need to keep everybody ready, because we’ve got four games in six nights coming up.”

Galley might replace either Rob Blake or Doug Bodger, both of whom took pucks in the foot Friday night and suffered swelling after the game. X-rays on both were negative.

Lacroix, who came from the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday, probably will be used to kill penalties, in addition to skating regular shifts.

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About 4,000 tickets are available for tonight’s game.

TONIGHT vs. Phoenix, 5 p.m.

Fox Sports West

Site--Great Western Forum.

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Radio--KRLA (1110).

Records--Kings 4-4-2, Coyotes 4-2-1.

Record vs. Coyotes (1997-98)--2-2.

Update--Phoenix is 2-1-1 on a five-game trip. Rick Tocchet has three goals and four assists over the last six games, and the Coyotes have given up only 10 goals over that span. Phoenix is rested, having last played at San Jose on Thursday, and its roster is a bit lighter because the Coyotes sent center Cliff Ronning and defenseman Richard Lintner to Nashville for future considerations Saturday. The Kings continue to struggle offensively, having been shut out twice in the last three games.

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