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Kings: Players don't miss chalking it up

1/11/2012

EL SEGUNDO -- Like a payphone in a strip mall, the grease board that hangs on the glass at Toyota Sports Center has quickly become obsolete.

Before he was fired as coach of the Kings last month, Terry Murray consistently interrupted practice to convey his message on the 24-by-18-inch white board with the inscribed playing surface. Darryl Sutter, on the other hand, has little use for the training aid.

Sutter, who replaced Murray three weeks ago, stood in front of the board his first day on the job, inked a couple stickmen and squiggly lines and hasn’t gone back since.

That’s just fine with the players.

“It’s nice because I don’t like to sit at the chalkboard very often. Just get out and do things,” defenseman Jack Johnson said. “You don’t need to make drills complicated to make them good drills. We just get out there, go and get off.”

Practices are shorter, more high-tempo than they were under Murray, who was fired Dec. 12 after the team struggled to score goals and consistently win games the first two months of the season.

“He just kind of rolls through the drills real quick,” right wing Justin Williams said of Sutter. “He just explains it orally and, most of the time, we get it on the first try and that way it just keeps practice going a little quicker.”

Or as left wing Dustin Penner put it, Sutter’s teaching methods are “trial by fire.”

“We get out there, maybe do the first part of the drill wrong once, and then after that we pick it up,” he said. “As the year goes on, [practices] will become more cleaner and more efficient.”

The lack of down time seems to be paying off with more energy and enthusiasm among the players.

“We’re all paying attention and we’re all listening,” Williams said. “Everybody’s excited for practice and everybody’s hooting and hollering, and that’s the fun part about coming to practice and being happy to play.”

The Kings also had a jump in their step Wednesday after getting the day off Tuesday, a night after delivering one of the most impressive wins of the season, a 5-2 victory against the visiting Washington Capitals.

Williams, who has been in a season-long goal-scoring slump, scored the final goal against Washington when a shot by Drew Doughty hit him in the left shoulder and deflected across the goal line, the type of good fortune a team typically receives when it’s on a roll.

“We definitely got a few bounces that night and that was certainly one of them,” Williams said. “Hopefully, we can keep that going. It’s good for team morale when everyone gets on the scoreboard and everyone contributes.”

No need to go back to the drawing board to figure that out.