Friday, February 10, 2012
Kings: Running out of patience in New York
By Dan Arritt
Kings (26-19-10, 62 points) vs. New York Islanders (22-23-8, 52 points) at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, 10 a.m. PT
Five storylines to track:
1. New look lines – After a bad loss Thursday night against the Panthers in Sunrise, Fla., Kings coach Darryl Sutter brought out the salt shaker during practice Friday and jumbled some forward lines. The No. 1 group of Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Justin Williams remained intact, but the second line had a pair of rookies, Dwight King and Jordan Nolan, skating side saddle with center Mike Richards. King and Nolan were called up from the minors earlier in the day and are expected to make their season debuts against the Islanders. For Nolan, whose father, Ted Nolan, coached the Islanders for two seasons from 2006 to '08, he will be making his NHL debut.
2. Penner demoted – Kings left wing Dustin Penner appears to be the biggest loser from Friday’s shake up. He spent practice on the fourth line with four other players, none of whom sport a 30-goal season on their resume as Penner does. He was partly responsible for the second goal that gave the Panthers a 2-0 lead in the second period, then was benched for half of the third. Penner is in a contract year but hasn't been playing like it, scoring only five goals this season, spending two stints on injured reserve and missing another game for his infamous back spasms while eating pancakes the morning before a game. Don’t be surprised if Penner and his $4.25-million salary watches this game from the press box.
3. Stoll sidelined – As was reported Friday, the Kings will be without Jarret Stoll for at least a week because of a hip injury suffered in the third period against Florida. Rookie defenseman Slava Voynov was also sent back to Manchester for the purpose of freeing up a roster spot for King and Nolan. Voynov should be back when teams can expand their rosters following the trade deadline at the end of this month. Where the Kings will miss Stoll the most is in the face-off circle. Stoll is second best on the team in the number of draws won (465) and 15thin the league. This will undoubtedly put more pressure on Kopitar and Richards to win more than their share of drops.
4. Early order – The Islanders are the only team in the NHL that has not lost in regulation when leading heading into the second period. The Kings, meanwhile, have not allowed a first-period goal in the last nine games. Getting on top early would be good for their momentum and even better for their psyche. When they went down by a goal against the Panthers, it seemed like a long hill to climb. When they went down by two goals, the hill became a mountain. As the league’s lowest-scoring team, the Kings really need to avoid early deficits.
5. One that got away – The Kings don’t have a player in the league’s top 50 in goal scoring, but the Islanders have one in the top 10, and he was property of the Kings as recently as three years ago. Matt Moulson leads the Islanders with 24 goals, inching his way toward his third straight 30-goal season. He scored his second goal in eight games Thursday in a 4-2 loss against visiting Montreal. Moulson hasn’t let his former team forget their mistake of letting him go either, scoring three goals in four career games against the Kings.