Kings work on their rough edges
The Kings are 1-1-1 halfway through exhibition play but Coach Terry Murray said he’s not yet microanalyzing facets of the game such as puck possession or special-teams play. The early games had so many kids in the lineup -- and some players had back-to-back games -- that it was tough to get a good read on those areas, he said.
For those curious, the Kings are one for 13 on the power play and their penalty killing is 15 for 18.
But Murray said he saw enough rough edges to put the 32 players on the ice for more than two hours of work at the Toyota Sports Center on Saturday, followed by a conditioning skate.
The memories of Friday’s one-day break had faded by the end of a grueling day.
“It was important that we cover some issues that we saw in the three exhibition games and get the reps down so we have some consistency in our performance,” Murray said.
“Neutral-zone play was the big issue for me. Both sides of the puck. Checking-wise. I watched the game at Phoenix on my computer and there were a couple of times whenever the middle of the ice got exposed they walked in, had a couple of breakaways, and that’s just awareness. And part of the practice here today was to focus on neutral-zone forecheck.
“And on the other side of it we’re trying to get the puck up the ice faster. That north attitude, get on the attack, is important and the only way you can instill that in the players this early in the training camp is doing a lot of the reps on that. That was the main focus. ... I liked today. It was good hard work.”
What’s your line?
The lines Saturday were: Ryan Smyth-Anze Kopitar-Dustin Brown; Scott Parse-Jarret Stoll- Justin Williams; Alexei Ponikarovsky- Michal Handzus-Wayne Simmonds; Brad Richardson-Trevor Lewis-Kevin Westgarth; Kyle Clifford-Brayden Schenn-Oscar Moller; John Zeiler-Andrei Loktionov-Richard Clune.
The defense pairs were more fluid, but Willie Mitchell and Drew Doughty were consistently together, as were Rob Scuderi and Jack Johnson. Jake Muzzin played alongside Thomas Hickey or Andrew Campell. Davis Drewiske got some time with Hickey, too.
The next cuts are expected after Tuesday’s exhibition game against the Ducks at Staples Center. “We need to get down to a smaller group. That’s pretty large out there. That’s where the ice breaks down,” Murray said. “Players are not getting enough quality reps, maybe. Six lines, 11, 12 [defensemen]. That’s a little stand-around-and-wait at times and I’d like to get through that.”
Like all teams, the Kings put their players through a battery of fitness tests when training camp begins. The results were recently posted in the locker room at the Toyota Sports Center and the winner was Clune, who credited Tim Adams, the Kings’ strength and conditioning coach, with helping him embark on a high-protein diet over the summer that made him leaner.
The rest of the top five: Brown, Loktionov, Clifford and Williams.
“I’m not sure how they do the numbers. I think there are things that are more weighted,” Brown said. “Pull-ups was one of my weak suits but I don’t think they put a lot of weight behind that. You have a minute to do them. I did 10 in about 30 seconds and then I was done.”
Doughty was allowed to take the tests again after finishing near the bottom. “He actually did pretty well,” said General Manager Dean Lombardi, who wasn’t entirely pleased with Doughty’s conditioning last season.
Hair today … and tomorrow
Murray repeated that winger Kevin Westgarth, who figured to replace Raitis Ivanans as the resident enforcer, has won a job.
“He’s doing the right stuff. I’m looking for him to be on the big team,” Murray said. “He’s a heavyweight … and I believe that we need that kind of a player. He’s one of the players that will fill that slot as a fourth-line player.”
Westgarth also gets to keep his long hair, by far the longest mane on the team. It enhances his fear factor.
“Samson gets to do what he wants to do,” Murray said. “You take a look over the history of the tough guy and there is a lot of image that’s a part of it, whatever sport. He has his thing.”
Parse (bruised toe) and goaltender Erik Ersberg (bruised left hand) practiced Saturday for the first time in a few days. Ersberg missed an exhibition start because of the injury. “It’s a bad time,” he said. “It’s still sore and weak and I didn’t know if I could practice today but I got through it.”
Matt Greene, Viacheslav Voynov, Marc-Andre Cliche and Colten Teubert, who have missed camp entirely because of various injuries, participated in the post-practice skating drills Saturday but wore red, no-contact jerseys.
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