The Kings are on a bit of a slump and have looked listless, lifeless, and lugubrious during this period. Anze Kopitar has seemed lost for almost a month now, tallying 5 points in his last 10 games, of which 0 have been at even strength. Alexander Frolov, our primary secondary scorer (what?), has only 4 points in his last 10, while Dustin Brown has managed 5 points in his last 10. Those three are supposed to be the primary players on their respective lines and they haven't been getting the job done.
To fix that, Terry Murray has dramatically shuffled the lines. No longer do the Kings have a primary scoring line and a primary shutdown line; instead, they have what looks like three secondary scoring lines. The lines, courtesy of Inside the Kings:
As you can see, big changes are afoot. The primary duos all year have been Smyth-Kopitar, Brown-Stoll and Frolov-Handzus, and all three duos have been separated. It's a good decision overall, as the Kings have looked pretty predictable offensively for much of the past month or so and a change could do everyone some good. I'm a little concerned about Kopitar's line, since Fro and Kopitar havent' shown much in the past, but we'll have to see what happens. It could be a case where the top line tries to play even while the real heavy lifting is done by the bottom lines.
The 2nd and 3rd lines both look great, in my opinion. The Smyth-Stoll-Simmonds line should be crash-bang-boom! line, with both Simmonds and Smyth heading to the net to deflect or collect the rebounds caused by Stoll's shot. I think Smyth and Simmonds should be able to find a lot of chemistry. So too should Richardson-Handzus-Brown, the only line that has played together for any period of time. Richardson-Handzus-Brown played together briefly during the Kings' brutal 7 games in 10 days stretch and excelled in a game against Edmonton, where the line accounted for 2 Kings goals. The line works because Richardson is fast enough to catch up to Dustin Brown when Brown carries it up the ice and Richardson creates a nice passing option for Brown to ignore and instead clang it off the glass.* Both lines are defensively responsible and both lines can score. They should be fun to watch.
*I bet Navin Johnson would be really confused if he saw Dustin Brown play hockey. "He hates this glass! Get away from the glass!" Also, Ryan Smyth looks like Navin Johnson. Discuss.
And then there's the 4th line. Please oh please, Terry Murray, play one game, just one game, with a Purcell-Moller-Segal 4th line. Just to see what happens. Raitis Ivanans is worse at hockey than Michell Rodriguez is at acting and he needs to never play. Or at least not play sometimes. Please?
Of course, the trouble comes in a game like tonight where the other team has a dynamic top line. The Kings have played Joe Thornton pretty well in previous games, limiting him to only 6 points in 4 games, of which 2 are at even strength. They were able to do that mostly with their own top line of Smyth-Kopitar-Williams, but tonight Kopitar will have neither of those partners. I wouldn't be surprised if Marleau-Thornton-Heatley was met with a healthy dose of Richardson-Handzus-Brown while Kopitar tried to strike against the Sharks' defensive line. The Kings have already guaranteed a winning record against the Sharks this season (they're 3-1 right now) so it's not the end of the world if they lose tonight but they have to show something.
I woke up this morning thinking that Scott Parse was injured so I was puzzled that he was listed as playing tonight. I had a cup of coffee and realized I apparently had a dream about going online and seeing Scott Parse was injured. I think I'm losing my mind.
Prediction: Kings win, 3-2. Goals by Frolov, Kopitar and Brown.