In this post yesterday, Anze Kopitar talked about playing fewer minutes but being asked to give more effort under Darryl Sutter. Part of the reason for that is Sutter’s increased reliance on the fourth line. After a long period in which the Kings failed to have much of a fourth-line identity, they have settled on center Colin Fraser and wingers Kyle Clifford and Jordan Nolan, and Sutter is not afraid to give that line somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 minutes of ice time per game. Terry Murray liked having Kevin Westgarth in the lineup, but usually only played Westgarth for three or four minutes. Under Sutter, there’s more four-line balance. As Sutter explains it, though, that’s up to the players, meaning that Sutter won’t give ice time to the fourth-line players if they don’t deserve it. For the most part, of late, they have deserved it.
SUTTER: “It’s not just using them. They have to be able to contribute. If they can’t, if you’re just doing it to give someone a rest — same with the defensemen or the goalies — if you have a mindset, as a coaching staff, that you’re just doing it to give someone else a rest, and they’re not contributing then everybody is failing. We were able to use guys more in Edmonton, because they were contributing, quite honestly. In Minnesota, we used some guys more because we had some guys not contributing. So you have to do it on performance, as the game goes on, and at the same time manage it, based on the score. It doesn’t sound like much, over the course of a game or over the course of a week or homestand or road trip, but if you can get a minute-and-a-half or two minutes off a guy’s (ice time), he’s not real happy about it, but too bad. If you can pull that back, it makes everybody better, and that’s what it is about.’’