Kings Notebook (Dec. 1)
After drills had concluded Wednesday morning, the Kings slowly skated to a corner of the ice. Most players dropped to a knee, gathered around defenseman Matt Greene, while coaches chatted among themselves and shot pucks at the other end of the rink.
It was a good, old-fashioned, talk-it-out time, a players-only chat, and the subject was not difficult to determine. The Kings have lost four consecutive games, and seven of their last eight, and badly want a victory when they host Florida tomorrow at STAPLES Center.
"I think it's been a long time coming," Rob Scuderi said. "Usually, when you go through a slump, you just try to leave the guys alone and see if we can work ourselves out of it. It hasn't happened, win-loss wise, so we just wanted to reaffirm a couple things that I think everyone knows, deep down inside, but it's good to get them out in the air sometimes."
The talk lasted approximately five minutes, with every player given the opportunity to speak his mind, and afterward, the locker-room mood seemed a bit more relaxed.
"We just talked things out a little bit, a little regroup with the guys," Greene said. "It's not every day that you get a chance to talk to everybody, all at once, without emotions flying or anything like that. After a game, especially right now, with us losing games, it's not the best time to talk, because your emotions are high and maybe the thing that you're thinking isn't the right thing at the time.
"It's always good to have a meeting maybe when you're more on an even keel, and guys can express some things without having something else on their mind."
During the Kings' recent slump, they have fallen from first in the Western Conference to 11th. But the conference race, top to bottom, remains incredibly tight, and Scuderi said the Kings are trying to keep things in perspective, with 59 games still to play.
"As far as the standings go, we're not incredibly worried about it, but we're not really happy with it either," Scuderi said. "It is still early. We're still technically a winning team, but we certainly don't like the direction that we're headed. We're just trying to do some things to maybe lighten the attitude, lighten the atmosphere, and hopefully that leads to good things."
STAYING WITH IT?
The Kings will go with Jonathan Quick in goal against the Panthers tomorrow, and they're likely to stay with the lines they have been practicing with in the past two days.
That would mean a shifting in right wingers, as opposed to where they played Monday against Anaheim. Anze Kopitar would center Dustin Brown and Justin Williams. Jarret Stoll would center Ryan Smyth and Trevor Lewis. Michal Handzus would center Kyle Clifford and Wayne Simmonds.
Greene, who missed practice Tuesday for a "maintenance day," according to Murray, pronounced himself ready to play against Florida.
SCHENN STILL WAITING
Brayden Schenn is back with the Kings, after his seven-game AHL conditioning stint with the Manchester Monarchs, but it seems as though Schenn will be scratched tomorrow.
Schenn has played eight games for the Kings this season, and before his 10th, the team must decide whether to return him to junior or keep him and use a year of his contract.
Schenn played a fairly significant role for the Kings early in the season, but Murray has expressed his desire for Schenn to play a stronger defensive game. The Kings are likely to go with a fourth line of Brad Richardson, John Zeiler and Kevin Westgarth again.
"I don't plan on putting Brayden in tomorrow," Murray said. "It's always easier, maybe, given the way we started the first 15 games of the year. We were off to a great start, and you could put a young player in and there's good momentum. You're rolling, and things are happening. You're trying to get it turned around right now, and you're looking to veteran players and to put your best players on a line, or lines, together and let those guys make the difference in the game.
"So I don't want to throw that responsibility on his shoulders right now. I don't think it's the right thing to do. The fact that he went down and played, and played well, in the American Hockey League, is a good thing. I know he had some success there, and played a lot of minutes. You can only do it for two weeks, so we have to make a decision on what we're going to do."
KEEP WORKING AT IT
Much of Wednesday's practice was dedicated to special teams. The Kings rank sixth in the NHL in penalty-kill efficiency, and even through they have scored three power-play goals in their last four games, they're ranked 21st in power-play efficiency for the year.
"We had a team meeting, before the practice, about our team play, and then some time was spent on special teams, power play, in the video review," Murray said. "We need to give it some time. Obviously it's a very important part of the game, and the power play, in particular, has been off. We need to get that, to make a difference in some games, some nights. It really hasn't won us a game recently, and that would be nice."