The Kings can’t afford to be top-heavy. Shortly after Darryl Sutter’s arrival, and in an attempt to boost scoring, Sutter created a first line of center Anze Kopitar and wingers Dustin Brown and Justin Williams. That united the Kings’ top three goal producers and three of the top four goal scorers. It was also done with the hope that the second and third lines would produce enough secondary scoring to provide balance. So far, it hasn’t happened. So far, the Kings are essentially what they were last season: a team with two “2 1/2 lines,’’ instead of a team with a second and third line.
The second line of center Mike Richards and wingers Dustin Penner and Jarret Stoll is a veteran line, made up of three players who have each scored at least 22 goals in a season, but that line is also being used — at least at home, when Sutter gets more of a chance to choose matchups — as the Kings’ top defensive line. The bigger problem is that the line of center Andrei Loktionov and wingers Brad Richardson and Trevor Lewis needs an identity. If they’re ceding the “stopper line’’ role to the Richards line, they need to score. The Loktionov line has five goals, three from Richardson and two from Lewis. After today’s skate, Sutter talked about the Richards line’s production, and the Loktionov line.
SUTTER: “I think they’ll [Richards line] be fine. They’ve done a pretty good job of playing against top lines for us. I think that they’re going to be fine. The line that, quite honestly, we need more out of — and we’ve kept them together — is the Loktionov line has to be a better line for us. Especially when we go on the road, because on the road we have to be really careful how we use them, and we have to be careful how we use them when we’re in trouble. Lewie has done a really good job 4-on-4 and killing penalties, but the other two guys are going to have to play a hell of a lot better.’’
Question: Because, on the road, you aren’t going to get the matchups you always want either…
SUTTER: “They’re not a big line. If that’s considered your second or third line, they’re going to have to be able to play against heavy guys.’’