Time to shift line combinations?
Having scored five regulation goals in their last four games, will the Kings shake up their lines for the second time under Darryl Sutter? It seems unlikely at this moment, if only because there is only one game before the week-long break, but there’s certainly been a lack of balance of late. It doesn’t take any great insight to note that the first line (Brown-Kopitar-Williams) has excelled while the second line (Penner-Richards-Stoll) and the third line (Richardson-Loktionov-Lewis) have contributed next to nothing. Sutter seems inclined to keep things the way he set them before that home game against Washington…
SUTTER: “When we did it, it was more to jump-start getting Kopi and Brownie going, and Willy, since I’ve been here he’s probably been our best forward, both ways and all situations and all that. Mike (Richards) has been up and down, and Stolly. And I take responsibility, because I’ve moved them around. So I’d rather leave him and center and kind of let him play through it, and those kids didn’t have quite as good a game last night. A little heavier (Colorado) lineup, and bigger bodies, and they didn’t quite handle it as well as they should have.’’
Richards, in particular, is an interesting sidenote. For a long stretch of this season, Richards led the Kings in goals, but he has now been passed by Kopitar. In the 16 games since he returned from his head injury, Richards has three goals and three assists. Is it over-simplifying things, I asked Sutter, to say that Richards hasn’t quite been the same player since his return?
SUTTER: “I think the first three or four games, he was really good. I remember asking him, after that first game, `How did you feel?’ and he goes, `Oh, I didn’t expect to play 20 minutes.’ But, you know, that’s the situation that we’re in too. He struggled last night, but the line struggled. You look at Ottawa’s lineup tomorrow, and in a lot of ways it’s similar to what we saw last night. You can talk about the two high-end lines, but their so-called third line is big bodies, and I think they’ve probably got 30 goals, Smith, Foligno and Neil. They’re big guys that play hard. So we’ve got to find that matchup in there somehow.’’