Here were Terry Murray’s thoughts, after practice today, about adjusting to on-ice life without Anze Kopitar (and Justin Williams) and the thought process for the Kings going forward. First, Murray talks about his decision to go with the lines he used in practice today…
MURRAY: “I’m going to leave Handzus with Penner and Moller, the way we finished the game off the other night, and Lewis moves up to a higher line, to give him an opportunity here. I’ll watch both Lewis and Richardson closely, to see how things are going, and if I have to make a change at any time, I certainly will, but it’s the old cliche. It’s an opportunity for players to show what they can do on that side of the game now.”
Question: It’s a cliche, about opportunity, but there’s some truth behind it, right?
MURRAY: “Very much so. To maintain the tempo of the game, everybody has to make sure that they’re changing whatever they can, whatever they have to. They have to do the right stuff on that. Execution is going to be critical. Playing the system, playing with structure is going to be highlighted even more, and then the opportunities, when you do recover the pucks, now be creative. Now try to get something done on the offensive part of the game. It’s just going to be a good test for this young hockey club. We’ll be better when we come through it. There’s no question about it. Guys are going to be in a higher situation, more important situation, and they’ll grow immensely through this opportunity.”
Question: And if you had any questions about the character of the team, they will probably be answered now…
MURRAY: “I love the character of the hockey club. This is something that the L.A. Kings are very proud of. It’s a tight group in that locker room, a lot of character, a lot of hard-working people who work hard for each other. They got to battle for each other. As they say, the old foxhole mentality, and this is now when you button things down and you play hard for your teammates.”
Question: In all your years of coaching, have you ever lost your top two scorers in the span of three games?
MURRAY: “No, maybe a week though. It has happened before. You look around the history of the game. There are players that are going to go out, your top guys, and that’s where you just have to rely on each other. You’ve got to tighten things up again and just play the right way. It’s unfortunate when stuff happens, but I’ve seen it before, where you get into that third round of the Stanley Cup playoffs and you end up losing your top guy. You’ve got to know how to react, whenever you get to these kind of situations, and again, this is a great process for us to go through.”
Question: Will you specifically address, with the team, the loss of Kopitar and everything related to that?
MURRAY: “We had our meeting this morning, already. It was our normal review of the game against Colorado. We pull video off and spend about 20 minutes on that part of it. At the same time, we talked about our top two players, top scorers, being out of the lineup and what the responsibility is and what we need to do. So it’s not a matter of changing anything. The system is going to stay in place. The tendencies are going to be there. The reaction is good right now. There’s no hesitancy in our game, so we’ll just keep pushing that part of it. Just to repeat myself, I’m just looking for a couple young guys to step up here and take advantage of this opportunity.”