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Sutter looks for more from top players

Coach wants more scoring threats from top-six forwards

Monday, 02.06.2012 / 4:26 PM / Los Angeles Kings | News
By Rich Hammond
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Sutter looks for more from top players
TAMPA BAY -- In search of ways to improve the Kings’ offense, coach Darryl Sutter is looking at all of his forwards, but he’s looking longer, and more intensely, in the direction of a handful of high-profile players.

After Monday’s practice, Sutter expanded on what has been his theme for the past week or so, a basic theme best summed up by the old cliche, ``Your best players have to be your best players.’’

That is, without question, a form of coachspeak, an obvious statement, but one that certainly reflects reality when it comes to the Kings, who are the lowest-scoring team in the NHL this season. Anze Kopitar leads the Kings with 16 goals, and he’s not even among the top 50 in league goal-scorers this season.

Justin Williams has been hot of late, but Dustin Brown didn’t even record a shot on goal in Saturday’s loss to Carolina. Neither did Dustin Penner, who, so far this season, is being paid more than $1 million per goal (four goals, $4.250-million salary). Mike Richards has had an up-and-down season, and Jarret Stoll’s has been mostly down, as Stoll has five goals in 53 games.

``The other night in Carolina, if there’s anything you look at, from a critical standpoint, it would be that our top guys, other than on the power play, didn’t get those chances,’’ Sutter said. ``We were getting them from what everybody calls our third and fourth lines. That would be the only thing I would take out of that.

``It’s not necessarily shots. It’s just time spent trying to create that. That would be the biggest thing, I think. Kopi’s line, Kopi scored the power-play goal and he was pretty good. We need Willy and Brownie to finish and get more opportunities. On the next line, if you look at it the other night, (Richards) and Jarret both played good. They had 2-on-1s together, twice. That’s what you expect out of them. We need more out of Dustin, that’s obvious.’’

General manager Dean Lombardi said that he will explore all options in advance of the Feb. 27 trade deadline, and the Kings have already been in discussions about adding scoring help, but in-season trades rarely have a dynamic impact on a team. The Kings would be better served by having some of their top scorers catch fire, and quickly.

``The bottom line is that we’re paid to score goals, and we’re not doing it right now,’’ said Richards, who has one goal in his last 18 games. ``You can talk about playing the system and keeping the puck out of the net as much as you want, but you have to score goals to win hockey games.’’

LOOKING FOR ROAD WIN
Tuesday’s game against Tampa Bay will be the third game of the Kings’ season-long six-game road trip, and they’re still looking for their first points, following one-goal losses at St. Louis and Carolina.

Sutter gave the players the day off Sunday, then put them through a fast-paced practice Monday at Tampa Bay Times Forum. After practice, Sutter tried to emphasize the positives of Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Carolina.

``I thought we pretty much controlled the game,’’ Sutter said. ``It was disappointing that we didn’t get something out of it. That’s what we told the players after. We did everything you want on the road. We had a good start, scored a power-play goal, killed penalties, dominated faceoffs, spent most of the time in their zone... It was a tough loss for team, because we didn’t feel like we lost.’’

In practice Monday, the Kings stayed with the same line combinations and defensive pairings that they used in Carolina, although it’s not known whether Sutter will stay with the same lineup against the Lightning.

Andrei Loktionov and Alec Martinez practiced the same way they played Saturday, as Loktionov centered the third line, between Kyle Clifford and Trevor Lewis, while Martinez paired with Matt Greene.

``They were fine,’’ Sutter said. ``It’s just that Carolina is a different kind of team than St. Louis. That’s a fact. So you try to adjust your lineup a little bit. St. Louis is a big, heavy team. Carolina is a quick team.’’