Today in practice, Alexei Ponikarovsky skated on the first line with Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown. Tomorrow? Well…check back tomorrow. Over the past 10 days, Ponikarovsky has gone from a first-line winger to a healthy scratch to a fourth-line winger to a first-line winger. To be certain, none of this takes place because Terry Murray is bored and likes spending his time drawing up line combinations on napkins. The Kings have yet to find a consistent first-line left winger, so Murray feels the need to tweak things and hope that magic happens. (If you listen carefully, you can hear Murray tapping, “Please trade for a winger” in Morse code.) Ponikarovsky practiced in a first-line look today, but Murray wouldn’t commit to keeping that Ponikarovsky-Kopitar-Brown line together in tomorrow’s game. Much of that will probably depend on the status of Wayne Simmonds, who is a possibility to play tomorrow, as well as the status of Ryan Smyth.
MURRAY: “I just keep looking for that player to fit there with Kopitar. That’s probably the place I’m looking all of the time, with, what can I get here that’s really going to make that line have good chemistry, good feel and be very effective on a consistent basis? So that’s why I do what I do. I’m finding, though, that with Stoll and Smyth and Williams, they go back together last night and they had a good game. I’m finding that kind of consistency with them, so I’ll probably not touch that one in the near future. I’ll let them play. Hopefully everything starts to fall into place, with some results, but I sure liked the way they cycled and the way they had offensive-zone time. But the search goes on, with Kopi’s line.”
Question: You’ve gone back to Ponikarovsky in that spot a few times this season. Is that just a situation where you’re hoping the light comes on, that something clicks?
MURRAY: “That’s the right word, clicks. You just hope that something starts to click. Chemistry is a very mystical thing. It clicks or it doesn’t. There are reads, plays happen and there are some signs, obviously, in the game that you look for, off cycles, off O-zone play, off reads and support. Right now, it’s just not there. So I’ll see what I do after I finish up this afternoon, and start messing around with the lines again.”