Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Kings: A star emerges from the clouds
By Dan Arritt
EL SEGUNDO — In a month of lows and even further lows, one member of the Kings received good news Monday night.
Shortly after the Kings lost to the Toronto Maple Leafs, 3-2, their sixth loss in the last seven games, center Anze Kopitar learned he was named to the Western Conference All-Star team that will play Jan. 30 in Raleigh, N.C.
It’s the second All-Star selection for the 23-year-old Slovenian, who made his first appearance three years ago.
"I’m going to enjoy it a little more than I did the first time,” he said. “You really want to soak it in as much as you can because you never know when it’s going to happen again.”
Kopitar learned at practice Tuesday that he was at the center of another on-ice decision, this one by Kings coach Terry Murray, who moved Ryan Smyth and Justin Williams up to the first line with Kopitar. The trio had success playing together early last season, and with the team struggling to get wins, Murray decided it was time to further shake things up.
Murray has used nine different starting top line combinations this season.
“[Murray] is showing that he’s not afraid to mix the lines,” Kopitar said. “Hopefully, we can produce and hopefully we can stay together for a long period of time.”
Murray said the move had nothing to do with the chemistry between Kopitar and Dustin Brown, who fell back to the second line with center Michal Handzus and rookie Kyle Clifford.
Kopitar has gone a season-long eight games without a goal and Brown has just one point in five games this month after totaling 19 points in 14 games in December.
“You’ve got to get some wins on the board,” Murray said. “You’re trying to find something that’s going to be the catalyst, maybe, to get us going right now.”
The demotion of Alexei Ponikarovsky from a two-game stay on the top line to the fourth line was performance-related. Murray said after the loss to the Maple Leafs that he probably should have moved Ponikarovsky off the top line earlier in the game.
“The coaches decided to do that and that’s what it is,” said Ponikarovsky, who came to the Kings as a free agent last summer. “You just have to stick with it and play hard.”
Ponikarovsky practiced Tuesday with Brad Richardson, Trevor Lewis and Kevin Westgarth. Richardson will rejoin the lineup Thursday against visiting St. Louis after sitting out as a healthy scratch the last two games, Murray said.
That leaves one of the other three as a likely candidate to sit in the press box against the Blues. If it's Ponikarovsky, that would be a long way to fall in a short amount of time.