Sutter increasing workload for third and fourth lines
It is the goal of every NHL coach to roll four lines as much as possible. Putting the top line on the ice every other shift is tempting, but it's also not conducive to long-term success.
That's why, in his first month on the job as Kings coach, Darryl Sutter has put an emphasis on his third and fourth lines. The top two lines, centered by Anze Kopitar and Mike Richards, remain the team's strength, but Sutter has also effectively received minutes from the other two lines.
The third line has turned into a young, speedy line, with Andrei Loktionov centering Brad Richardson and Trevor Lewis. The fourth line is all about grit, with Colin Fraser centering Kyle Clifford and Trent Hunter.
"We're trying to get some shifts away from (Kopitar's) line, just to make them more effective," Sutter said. "That only works if other guys are going. I think the game before that, (Mike Richards') line really struggled, so 5-on-5 they didn't play much. If (Colin Fraser) can keep his line going and (Andrei Loktionov) can keep his line going, it's still something we're learning here. It's a rite-of-passage thing. I don't know if it's the 'star' thing or what, or a history thing, but they (top players) don't automatically get to play.
"The schedule demands (balance), so it is important. It's a big difference for some of these Western Conference teams. If you don't have that, if you're only playing nine or 10 forwards and four defensemen, it might look good tonight but it won't look too good tomorrow night. So, as much emphasis as you put on every game, you still have to manage it properly."
Only problem is, the third and fourth lines don't generate nearly as much offense as the top two lines, and that hurt the Kings in Sunday's 2-1 overtime loss to the Edmonton Oilers. The Kings end the road trip with a Tuesday game at Vancouver.
--The Kings were not entirely happy with their weekend schedule. It's not at all uncommon for the Kings to face back-to-back road games against Calgary and Edmonton, but the timing of the games displeased coach Darryl Sutter. The Kings played Calgary on Saturday night in a game that started at 8 p.m. local time because of Hockey Night in Canada. After that, it was a short flight to Edmonton, but a Sunday night game that had an earlier than usual start time of 6 p.m.
"I understand the 8 (p.m.) for Hockey Night, but I don't understand 6 o'clock the next day," Sutter said. "I mean, they want the best performances out of the players. We'll be another middle-of-the-night team again."
--Kings coach Darryl Sutter was able to get back to normal Sunday, one day after his big "homecoming" victory. Sutter beat the Calgary Flames, the team he worked with for eight years as coach and general manager, and also beat his younger brother Brent, the Flames coach. After the game, the Kings gave Sutter the game puck and gave him an ovation in the locker room. Sutter said he would give the game puck back to his 18-year-old son, Chris, who was in attendance.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "You kind of get into a funk, with that cloud over your head, where nothing is going in and you're scratching and clawing for two goals. Now, we're getting a lot of chances. Our power play is clicking. The PK is there, like it's always been, and same with our defensive play." -- Kings winger Dustin Penner, on trying to put together a complete game.
--G Jonathan Quick was the surprise starter, just one night after he beat the Calgary Flames on the road. Kings coach Darryl Sutter has a policy of not announcing his starting goalie before the game, but it's fairly standard for the No. 1 goalie and backup goalie to split back-to-back games on the road. The Kings' backup, G Jonathan Bernier, has played well of late, but Quick is an All-Star selection who had allowed more than one goal in only one of his previous five games.
--C Anze Kopitar is thriving, even though he's been taking a beating of late. Last Thursday, Kopitar missed the final eight-plus minutes of the third period, plus overtime and the shootout, after he took a brual shoulder-to-chest hit.Kopitar was able to return for Saturday's game, and scored a goal, but was on the wrong end of a knee-to-knee hit in the third period. Kopitar was, once again, able to play Sunday. Kopitar had scored a goal in three consecutive games but was held to one assist on Sunday. Kopitar still has six points in his last four games.
--A move back to the left seems to have been the right one for LW Dustin Brown. Brown has spent most of his career at right wing, but at a couple different points this season, the Kings have moved Brown to the left side. Brown has said that he's comfortable playing on either wing but, in a way, prefers the left side because of the way that he can control the puck heading into the offensive zone. A former 30-goal scorer, Brown got off to a slow start this season -- five goals in his first 30 games -- but now has scored seven goals in his last 16 games and has moved into a first-line role alongside C Anze Kopitar and RW Justin Williams.
--LW Simon Gagne (concussion) was put on injured reserve on Dec. 28.
--LW Scott Parse (hip) was put on injured reserve on Nov. 9 and underwent surgery on Dec. 2. Parse will be out until at least early April and might be out for the season.
--Rob Scuderi, Drew Doughty.
--Willie Mitchell, Slava Voynov.
--Jack Johnson, Matt Greene.
--LW Dustin Brown, C Anze Kopitar, RW Justin Williams.
--LW Dustin Penner, C Mike Richards, RW Jarret Stoll.
--LW.Brad Richardson, C Andrei Loktionov, RW Trevor Lewis
--LW Kyle Clifford, C Colin Fraser, RW Trent Hunter