Kings coach Terry Murray shakes things up
Even by the standards of itchy-fingered Coach Terry Murray, this was a significant shakeup.
Hoping to stir his team out of a four-game losing streak, Murray revamped his top three lines for Thursday’s game against Nashville. Players found out when they saw the color-coded jerseys in their locker stalls Wednesday.
“The blender’s out, eh?” left wing Ryan Smyth said, smiling.
Left wing Marco Sturm, described by Murray as “still going through training camp and behind the play,” was dropped from the top (purple) line and placed on a stopper (red) line with former second-line center Jarret Stoll and rugged winger Kyle Clifford. Wayne Simmonds jumped from the third line to the first, with Anze Kopitar at center and Dustin Brown switching from right wing to left.
The strangest move involved Michal Handzus, who is a checking center and on Monday scored his first goal in 20 games and fifth this season. He centered the second scoring line (white jersey) for Smyth and Justin Williams. The fourth (green) line of Brad Richardson, Trevor Lewis and Kevin Westgarth and defense pairs remained intact.
“Things aren’t going well. Obviously, Terry’s going to tinker with it until we get things right,” Simmonds said. “All we can hope for is that we get things right sooner than later.”
Sooner means before their 0-3 record on this eight-game home stand gets worse. It will take consistency, patience and discipline, which they’ve lacked.
“We’re doing a great job for 40, 45 minutes,” Murray said. “We’re outshooting teams and looking at our scoring chances against that we do every game, we’ve got a wide margin on that one. The bottom line is winning games, and that’s why I’m changing up some things.”
That included giving Handzus scoring responsibilities. The Slovakian center, who said his drought felt longer than 20 games, said he plans to give Smyth and Williams the puck and read off them.
“If you play with those guys I’m sure it’s going to be a more offensive role. But you have to play your game,” said Handzus, who has rarely played with Smyth but was a linemate of Williams’ while both were Flyers. “I’m not going to change my two-way game but I’ve got to produce more, that’s for sure.”
Smyth said he’s optimistic about the new configuration.
“I think Zeus analyzes the game really well. He sees it really well. He’s got great vision and he’s got good puck sense,” Smyth said. “He’s a big man. He doesn’t throw the puck away — he holds onto it and makes plays. It’s another guy who can work in on the cycle but is very responsible in his own zone.”
Prospect Brayden Schenn tied Dale McCourt‘s Canadian record by collecting 18 points in the world junior championships and was voted the most valuable player, but Canada collapsed and lost to Russia, 5-3, in the gold-medal game at Buffalo, N.Y. Another Kings prospect, left wing Maxim Kitsyn, scored in Russia’s five-goal third period. He had nine points overall, including a team-best five goals. Defenseman Derek Forbort, the Kings’ first-round draft pick last June and a freshman at the University of North Dakota, won a bronze medal when Team USA defeated Team Sweden, 4-2. He had no points in six games.