It was tense inside Staples Center last night after Devante Smith-Pelly scored to bring the Anaheim Ducks within 3-2 with just under six minutes remaining in the second period. More than 18,000 people sat and watch intently, and a handful of them were on the Kings’ bench. In the final six minutes of that period, the Kings’ first line of Justin Williams, Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown didn’t have a single shift. The fourth line of Kyle Clifford, Colin Fraser and Jordan Nolan had one shift, as Darryl Sutter rolled the lines centered by Mike Richards and Jarret Stoll. It wasn’t an accident.
SUTTER: “We played the guys that were mentally tough, because they all weren’t. They’re still learning that. There were guys that didn’t play during stretches there, pretty significant players that didn’t get to play much at certain points of the game last night. You try to get a read, as a coach, who is that and who isn’t.’’
Sutter went back to a more normal rotation in the third period, and wasn’t shy about rolling four lines. The Fraser-centered fourth line had four shifts. Sutter said his willingness to roll four lines late in tight games is based partly on game situations and partly on his philosophy.
SUTTER: “It’s probably a combination of both. They get tagged as fourth lines, but a lot of times it’s about how guys above them are playing, and what the score is in the game and if they’re momentum-changer type of guys or if there’s a matchup, individually, maybe. Our fourth line has a centerman who has won championships, at this level and at the World Junior level, and he’s probably significantly ahead, in terms of the way he thinks the game and the way he recognizes what’s going on in the game, than some of our players who get significant attention. So it doesn’t really bother me to play him in those situations.’’