Kings defensemen adapt to new roles
EDMONTON, Canada — Coach Darryl Sutter missed the Kings' practice Monday at Rexall Place to attend to family matters, a club spokesman said, but Sutter's influence was still felt on the ice.
Assistant coach John Stevens said Sutter left him and fellow assistant Davis Payne a list of things to work on. "Better puck management, being quicker with the puck, and making better plays in the neutral zone," Stevens said.
The practice lines featured Kyle Clifford on the top trio with Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown, and a second line of Dwight King, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. Dustin Penner and Brad Richardson rotated in on the third line, and Colin Fraser rotated in on the fourth line. Stevens said no decision had been made on possible changes up front against the Oilers but said the defense pairs are expected to stay intact. Spare defenseman Andrew Campbell rotated in Monday to get some reps.
Although the assistants share duties, Stevens has overseen the Kings' defense, which has become younger and less experienced since losing Matt Greene (back surgery), Willie Mitchell (knee surgery) and Alec Martinez (upper-body injury). The defense has drawn criticism from Sutter, but Stevens said players have had to adapt to new roles.
"Drew Doughty has probably been in more of a leadership situation. He and Rob Scuderi are the veteran guys on the back end," Stevens said. "There are a lot of details that guys have to work on, and we've been going over those on video. Some of these guys are getting opportunities to play more minutes and, in the case of Davis Drewiske, getting a chance to play every day. It's important for them to work on the details."
Doughty is still seeking his first goal after averaging almost 11 goals over his first four NHL seasons.
"There's no question we need our defense to contribute offensively. They can help our five-man game by getting pucks to the net," Stevens said. "Drew prides himself on being a good defender, but clearly he has a great skill set in the offensive zone.
"But we certainly don't want him to focus only on offense. We want him to be a complete defenseman and want him to contribute by moving pucks, including on the power play."