LOS ANGELES -- The raw numbers from Wednesday night’s split-squad exhibition game against the Phoenix Coyotes wouldn’t suggest an improvement, but anybody who watched the Kings 2-1 shootout loss at Staples Center could see the power play was moving in the right direction.
Instead of four players holding their ground, stick blade stationary to the ice, waiting patiently while a teammate holds the puck, hoping to find just enough room to make a perfect set-up pass, the whole unit was in constant movement, as if they were attached to a single string.
Players skated from high to low in the offensive zone, veered between the half wall and the front of the net and traded positions on the point.
The Kings netted their only goal of the game on the power play, when Mike Richards flicked a shot at the net with Dustin Brown providing interference in front. Brown’s presence was enough to distract the goalkeeper while rookie defenseman Slava Voynov slid in and tucked the loose puck into the net.
“When you have a moving power play with people at the net at the same time, it’s pretty tough to defend,” Brown said. “You get mixed up in your assignments.”
Brown said the movement was a big change from last season, when the Kings converted just 16 percent of their power-play opportunities, good for 21st in the league.
“Looking back at last year, we were too stationary,” he said.
Brown says he feels most effective camped in front the net on the power play, rather than hanging around the half wall like he did most of last season, but that doesn’t mean he can’t make plays from either area.
“I prefer to be in front of the net but there was a couple times [Wednesday] night when I was on the half wall and I just kind of slid out and give it to a guy going to the net,” he said. “That creates movement.”
Kings coach Terry Murray also liked what he saw, despite the Kings finishing just one-for-seven with the man-advantage..
“There’s a plan to get a lot more movement,” he said. “I thought [the power play] was really good early. It’s puck movement. It’s moving your feet. There were some cycles that were happening. There was a lot of creativity getting pucks back up top with [defensemen] shooting one-timers.”
Not lost in the excitement was the fact the Kings best playmaker on the power play, Anze Kopitar, was playing the other half of the split-squad scrimmage in Phoenix, where the Kings won, 3-2, tying the score with a power-play goal early in the third period.