Thursday, December 1, 2011
Kings: Depth tested in victory vs. Panthers
By Dan Arritt
LOS ANGELES -- With one of their best defenseman out of the game after one shift Thursday night and their leading goal scorer sidelined because of another injury following the second period, the Kings managed to patch together a 2-1 victory against the visiting Florida Panthers.
Whether they’ll need to patch together additional lineups is yet to be determined.
Willie Mitchell left because of a lower-body injury after just 51 seconds of ice time at Staples Center. Mike Richards, who had eight goals in the previous 10 games coming in, did not come out for the third period after taking a shoulder to the head late in the second.
He was officially diagnosed as having an upper-body injury.
After the game, Kings coach Terry Murray could not say if the players would miss any additional playing time. The Kings are scheduled to host the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday afternoon.
“The trainers are busy and evaluating and will probably know before I get away here tonight,” he said. “We’ll have a better idea tomorrow.”
Before the Kings could think about Saturday, they needed to get through Thursday’s game. Florida came to L.A. leading the Southeast Division with the third-best record in the Eastern Conference.
Short a defensemen, the remaining blue-liners were forced to double shift and swap partners throughout the game.
“You just have to be smart,” said Jack Johnson, who scored the game’s first goal. “You have to know, at times, you’ll be double shifting, so you’ve got to be smart and know when to conserve all your energy. You kind of pace yourself as the game goes on.”
That means minimizing extra time on the ice.
“When you lose players, one on the back end one on the front end, it’s just important to keep your shifts short,” said Kings captain Dustin Brown, who scored the winning goal in the second period. “It’s a good opportunity for guys to step up.”
Brown’s goal was set up by rookie defenseman Slava Voynov, who made a picture-perfect pass to Brown from one blue line to the other, allowing Brown to carry the puck with speed into the offensive zone and score on the power play for a 2-0 lead.
“It was one of those passes, especially here at Staples, that can be tough to make,” Brown said.
Johnson scored his first goal in 11 games on a wrist shot from the top of the faceoff circle that sliced through traffic and off a Florida defenseman before hitting the back of the net.
“I just tried to drop the shoulder a little bit, hoping the guy would sell out and he did,” Johnson said. “He gave me a lane and I got lucky hitting their guy in front.”
The Kings hope their luck continues with the evaluations of Mitchell and Richards. They can’t afford to be short-handed much longer.