The Kings got another first line today, at least the seventh of the season that I can recall. Now, it’s Anze Kopitar centering Brad Richardson and Dustin Brown, sort of a hybrid of the last two games. In Monday’s loss to Anaheim, Ryan Smyth and Brown replaced Richardson and Wayne Simmonds as Kopitar’s wingers, after Richardson and Simmonds had a surprisingly long and successful run on the top line.
Here’s what Terry Murray said today about the lineup change, when asked whether — since the injury to Justin Williams — he finds himself often searching for the correct combination…
MURRAY: “When Simmonds and Richardson were there, through that stretch, they were good. They really worked hard, they scored. We were very successful through our long road trip, and that was a huge reason why, in my opinion. I thought Kopitar really started to take his game back up to where it was, in fact even a little bit beyond that, in my opinion. I took a look at the two wingers, and I thought they were getting away from their game. The reason why I put them there was hard work, a skill level and really being alert to pucks, really anticipating plays and reacting very quickly to it. I think we just dropped off a bit on that, with Simmer and with Richie, but I don’t want to get too far away from that, simply because I liked what was going on. So I put Richie back there today. I just want to take a look at that. Maybe it will only last for a period, but I definitely want to take a look at it tomorrow again.”
As a follow-up, Murray was asked whether too much attention was paid — by media, fans, etc. — to the frequent line changes? Is it simply a part of the game?
MURRAY: “I don’t know if there’s too much emphasis put on it. I certainly put a lot of emphasis on it. I think chemistry is big. I think flow and intensity and workmanlike (effort) every shift is important. I really believe that there has to be instinctive play to a line, and when we get to a game against Anaheim, we were reacting to plays instead of instinctively going after things. We were waiting. We were almost chasing the game at times, trying to find the puck or get it back on our stick. So when I see that kind of reaction to play in the game, I feel there needs to be more. And the `more’ right now is going back to Richie on the left side, because of what was happening, just going back a week or two ago.
“So you’re not reading too much into it. If I find something good, I’ll leave it together for a long time. I’m not going to tamper with it, if it’s good for one or two games and go away from it. Like Smytty and Willy at the beginning of the year. They had magic. Every game, good things were happening. Scoring chances. Maybe not putting the numbers up, but scoring chances and confidence with the puck. So whenever that’s starting to show, I’ll stay with it, even though the results on paper might not be there.”