Kings center Anze Kopitar will try a new line
Center Anze Kopitar is not injured. Nor is illness the reason he has no goals in his past 10 games and two in his last 25.
“Everything’s good,” he said.
Except that scoring drought.
“No,” he said, “that’s awful.”
Hoping to stir Kopitar out of his doldrums, Coach Terry Murray mixed up his lines again for Saturday’s game against the Washington Capitals.
Kopitar will center for Michal Handzus and the also-slumping Wayne Simmonds, who has no goals in his last 10 games and one in 18. Rookie Andrei Loktionov moves from left wing to his natural center spot, between Kyle Clifford and Dustin Brown. The reliable Ryan Smyth-Jarret Stoll-Justin Williams line remains intact and the fourth line is likely to again be made up of Alexei Ponikarovsky, Trevor Lewis and Kevin Westgarth.
“It’s one of those days again with different line combos. It’s good,” Kopitar said Friday after the team’s lengthy practice at the Verizon Center. “It’s going to be a little more refreshing for everybody.”
Murray said that like many struggling scorers, Kopitar had retreated to the perimeter, “and I need to bring him back into the game here…. You have to get into these hard areas right now in order to change things around, to be more engaged in the game and not chasing the game.”
Simmonds said he expected a change after the team’s 2-1 overtime loss Thursday at Pittsburgh. “We’ve got to start scoring more goals or else we’re going to be in trouble here,” he said. “We’ve got to get things going quickly.”
Help isn’t imminent through a trade. The Kings weren’t among the finalists for center Mike Fisher, who was traded from Ottawa to Nashville on Thursday. General Manager Dean Lombardi is still pursuing a productive winger or center but said last week’s deals didn’t signify the floodgates had opened before the Feb. 28 deadline.
“It depends on what you want,” he said. “What do I really want? What we really need is some of our players to step up a little more here at crunch time. That’s still most important.”
He said Kopitar’s struggles are “part of the process of maturation and learning how to win. A lot of top players have gone through it. The most important thing I’d certainly like to see is him mature into taking these games over at times.”
Lombardi also said he continues to discuss deals with fellow general managers.
“It’s a lot harder now because we’re looking only for certain things,” he said. “There’s 30 teams out there and the ones that are willing to deal, how many have what you really need at this stage?”
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