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LAKingsinsider's Game Preview

Monday, 10.05.2009 / 8:01 PM / Los Angeles Kings | News
By Rich Hammond
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LAKingsinsider\'s Game Preview
Michal Handzus will be very busy tonight with Joe Thornton and co in town.
Kings coach Terry Murray thought, for a couple days, about whether to make a change on defense. Then, Murray said, the decision got made for him.

Peter Harrold will be in the lineup for tonight's game against San Jose, in place of rookie Alec Martinez. It was a move that Murray debated making, but got cemented when Murray said Martinez sustained a "lower-body injury" at the end of Monday's practice.

"I spoke with our medical trainer this morning and (Martinez is) day to day, but it could be a little bit more than day to day," Murray said. "So with that happening at the end of the practice, he would have been out of the lineup (anyway). It really was not a coach's decision after all."

Martinez made his NHL debut in Saturday's loss to Phoenix, had a minus-2 rating and, in general, appeared to have difficulty with defensive assignments at times.

So, in comes Harrold, into a pairing with Jack Johnson. Rob Scuderi moves over to pair with Matt Greene and Drew Doughty will again partner with Davis Drewiske while Sean O'Donnell serves the final game of his suspension.

Harrold was a healthy scratch on Saturday and has become the Kings' "utility" player, because of his ability to play defense, center and wing. Harrold had 12 points in 69 games last season.

READY TO GO
Wayne Simmonds returned to practice Tuesday morning -- after a "therapy day" Monday for undisclosed reasons -- and is expected to play tonight.

Dustin Brown said he is no longer experiencing problems with the strained gluteal muscle he suffered over the weekend, and also will play tonight.

MATCHUP GAME
As reported Monday, the Sharks will be without center Joe Pavelski tonight. Patrick Marleau is expected to move over from left wing to center the second line, but the focus will be on the Sharks' first line.

San Jose boasts an imposing first line, with center Joe Thornton and left wing Dany Heatley, and rookie Benn Ferriero -- after a highly impressive training camp -- has been moved up to play right wing.

Murray said that, as much as possible, he will attempt to match his third line of center Michal Handzus and wingers Alexander Frolov and Simmonds against that Thornton line, but wouldn't be stubborn about it.

"I want to get Handzus out there matching up against Thornton," Murray said. "That is, to me, a pretty good look. But there's often the double-shifting of a player like Thornton, to get him back as quickly as possible, and if our checking line is playing more than the Kopitar line, that's not the right thing either.

"If it ends up that Kopi gets Thornton at times, I'll leave that. I have a lot of confidence that they're going to be able to match up on that side of the game with them. It's just part of their role. They're going to have to play that way on the road, often, and you accept that kind of a challenge."

IN YOUR FACE(OFFS)
After the Kings lost 33 of 56 faceoffs in Saturday's loss to Phoenix, they spent a good amount of time in practice -- but not any more than usual, according to Murray -- working on the draws.


Last season, the Kings won 52 percent of their faceoffs, the fourth-best total in the NHL. Tonight's opponent, San Jose, ranked second at 53.8 percent.

"There's a great value on faceoffs," Murray said. "We did it all through last year, so it's not anything new. Our faceoff percentage though, in the first game, was not where it was last year. We were one of the better faceoff teams in the league last year, so you've got to get a little bit of focus on it. But it's not out of the norm that we do that stuff."