Power (Play) Outage

With just one goal in nine power play attempts, the Kings’ 11.1 percent conversion rate ranks them dead last in the NHL. Dustin Brown believes the secret to breaking through with the man advantage rests in keeping things simple.

“It doesn’t have to be pretty,” Brown said after practice today. “It could be a big shot. Or it could be a wrist shot, even. Just get it to the net. Right now, we are passing it around and moving it around pretty good, but we are not getting enough action around the net.”

Although the power play has been ineffective, Brown said he believes the Kings have shown steady improvement in other areas.

“The more games we play, the better and the more comfortable we feel in our system,” Brown said. “You come back from off-season, especially with no training camp, and it takes a couple games. The first couple games, you are thinking about what you are supposed to be doing. Now, it’s just instinctive with our systems, and how we fore-check. The last couple of games, our fore-check and our neutral zone have been significantly better. That’s just a byproduct of not having to think about it. Guys know instinctively what they have to do.”

Brown, who skated at left wing on a line with Anze Kopitar in the middle and Justin Williams on the right side today, said players noticed Coach Darryl Sutter’s line juggling Monday night vs. Vancouver, but took no offense to it.

“We were definitely aware of it,” Brown said of he and his teammates. “You are used to playing with certain guys. But we are all pulling for the same thing, and that is tying that game. (Darryl) was mixing and matching players. You are just waiting for your number to be called and focusing on what you need to do.”

Sutter likens the NHL’s truncated 48-game schedule to playoff hockey, with every game taking on added importance. If Sutter’s theory holds true, tomorrow night’s matchup with Nashville at STAPLES Center will have the feel of a play-in game. The Kings and Predators are both currently on the outside looking in; Los Angeles is in ninth place in the Western Conference with five points in five games, while Nashville is in tenth place because it has taken them an extra game to accumulate five points. Vancouver and Edmonton, the seventh and eighth place teams, each have six points.

Sutter said he likes the way his team has been practicing. The key, he said, is carrying it over to games.

“We have been practicing good and trying to carry little things into games,” he said. “As long as we keep on that path, we are getting better.”

Sutter can be a man of few words in his post practice sessions with the media, but he usually gets his point across. After this morning’s practice, Sutter was asked when Dustin Penner, who has been a healthy scratch for three consecutive games, might return to the lineup.

“I really don’t have a timeline,” Sutter said. “I watch how he practices. See his pace, and what we are trying to execute and then work on getting him in. It’s no different than what we did with Gagne. If we break it down by position, there is a 1-through-5 position in terms of how they are performing. At every position, some guys are moving up; some guys are moving down. That’s the way it works.”

Sutter seemed to suggest Penner was not among the guys moving up. Pressed for his interpretation of Penner’s play, Sutter declined to go into specifics.

“I really don’t like to talk about it,” he said, “because all it becomes then is criticizing somebody, instead of talking about someone who is playing well.”

Defenseman Willie Mitchell, who has yet to play this season after undergoing off-season knee surgery, did not practice today. Still, Sutter said Mitchell has not experienced a setback.

“We are trying to do as much off-ice as we can to get (Willie’s) fitness where it can be, and hopefully he can jump back into practice again. There has been zero setback.”

Simon Gagne talked about the off-season surgery he underwent to remove a mass of tissue accumulation, caused by multiple hits, from his neck.

Gagne called the post-surgery recovery process, “two weeks of tying not to do too much.”

Even before resuming hockey-related activities, Gagne said the surgery was a life changer.

“Right after surgery, not having that thing in my neck, the first thing I noticed was the way I was sleeping,” he said. “Waking up in the morning feeling a lot better and more rested. Able to sleep on my back, like normal. It was a big difference. I don’t know if it is going to help in hockey, but in every day life, it’s definitely something that has helped a lot.”

Gagne said his efforts to alleviate the pain might have actually exacerbated the problem.

“I had a lot of injections to help the pain and they said maybe those injections caused (the mass) to grow,” he said. “At least now, it’s out of (my neck) and now it’s back to normal.”

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