The morning after the Kings allowed six goals for the second consecutive game and stumbled within one loss of playoff elimination, Terry Murray decided his best chance to succeed against the San Jose Sharks will be to deploy skillful but unproven winger Scott Parse, who hasn't played since Nov. 15.
The sad note is that if adding Parse means subtracting Dustin Penner, Murray might have made the best choice available to him as long as General Manager Dean Lombardi refuses to throw prospect Brayden Schenn into the postseason fire.
Murray absolved goaltender Jonathan Quick for the carnage the last two games and will start Quick on Saturday at HP Pavilion. However, Murray juggled his lines in practice Friday to put Parse to the left of Michal Handzus and Justin Williams and placed Ryan Smyth alongside Trevor Lewis and Dustin Brown.
"The fact is we've given up 12 goals in the last two games at home and the goals against are self-inflicted in my view and we need to make a change," Murray said before boarding the team's charter flight north. "And we need to get everybody's attention to the detail part of the game, the checking part of the game."
Five players wore green jerseys reserved for the fourth line, but Murray said enforcer Kevin Westgarth will be in the Game 5 lineup Saturday. That leaves two spots for Jarret Stoll, Oscar Moller, Alexei Ponikarovsky and Penner, who has no goals and is -4.
Whatever his decision there, Murray acknowledged he's taking a chance by playing Parse, who had a goal and four points in five games before undergoing hip surgery.
"You have to take all the factors into consideration and put him in a situation where you do take on a little bit of a risk, but you look at the risk/reward part of it too," Murray said. "The skill side of the game with the puck on his stick is good. He can give us some looks in the offensive zone. He can be a threat. And he's got some speed, quickness that can match up with their speed and quickness."
Parse said he's 100% recovered. "I'm excited. Happy. Ready to go," he said.
A win by the Kings would force a sixth game Monday at Staples Center. They haven't won a playoff series since 2001, when they beat Detroit in six games. But this is the first time they've made the playoffs in consecutive seasons since 2000, 2001 and 2002.
Penner, demoted or benched in previous stints with the Ducks and Edmonton Oilers, said he's not surprised by the shuffling.
"I think every coach does that, especially when things aren't going well," said the burly left wing, who hasn't scored in 17 games since March 13. He also said he's not affected by the changes. "Maybe if I was a younger guy, a first-year player, it would be different," he said. "But we have to shake things up."
The Kings' biggest changes must come on defense. That's a team-wide mission against the savvy Sharks.
"They're making good plays once they're in the zone. They have guys jumping by people and one guy gets open and they're finding him," defenseman Jack Johnson said. "If one guy loses coverage it can cause a lot of trouble, and they're taking advantage of that whenever it does happen. They've got good players who see the ice as good if not better than any players in the league."
He cited Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski but could have added Ryane Clowe, who leads both teams with four goals, and Logan Couture. The Sharks finally seem to have more good options than bad playoff memories. The Kings haven't reached that place yet.