Veterans Emerson, Buchberger Reunited
Ian Laperriere was back on the ice for the Kings on Thursday night after sitting out Tuesday’s game to attend the birth of his son, Tristan, but that wasn’t Coach Andy Murray’s only lineup change.
Nelson Emerson, who had been scratched in five consecutive games and seven of eight, was back playing on a line with fellow veteran Kelly Buchberger, who returned Tuesday after sitting out seven games because of a sprained ankle.
Andreas Lilja, who had sat out 18 consecutive games, was back in the lineup for the first time since Feb. 7, the Kings dressing seven defensemen.
Scratched were Jaroslav Bednar, Adam Mair and Ken Belanger, who all played key roles in the Kings’ recent six-game winning streak.
“We’re going with a lot of our veterans here tonight,” Murray said before the game. “This is the time of year when that leadership and that veteran experience should help out. It will help us as long as we use it to help us.”
After the Kings were shut out in consecutive games at Phoenix and Vancouver, Murray naturally turned his attention to ... defense?
“Everybody talks about the fact that we haven’t scored for two games,” Murray said. “My major concern is that we’ve given up eight goals because we always play better offensively when we’re better defensively.
“We’ve really got to tighten it up. We’ve taken 21 penalties in the last three games and we can’t afford to do that because we’re using Ziggy [Palffy] and Jason [Allison] and some of those guys on penalties.
“They’re spending too much time on the defensive side of the game instead of having the chance to focus on offense, so we need to be better there.”
Murray, on dressing seven defensemen: “We’re not happy with a couple of our defensemen, the way they’ve been playing, but it’s a bit of a risk to take one of them out and put Andreas in there because he hasn’t played for so long.
“We don’t know how he’s going to respond. If we get into the game and he’s struggling, where are we? This way we have other guys.”