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New coach Darryl Sutter leads practice

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Darryl Sutter took over as Los Angeles Kings coach, running practice Wednesday morning before holding a news conference at a nearby hotel.

He says he feels comfortable with his knowledge of the team after watching the previous five games on television and going through video of prior games.

Several players said there was a livelier feel on the ice at Toyota Sports Center. They met with Sutter beforehand and then skated for about 45 minutes, primarily working on end-to-end rushes.

"It was a really upbeat, quick-moving and high-tempo practice," said Kings defenseman Jack Johnson. "It was fun. That's what players want."

Sutter, 53, is taking the helm from Terry Murray, who was about a third of the way into his fourth season with the Kings when general manager Dean Lombardi had seen enough low-scoring losses and inconsistent efforts. He fired Murray while the team was in Boston on Dec. 12 and immediately reached out to Sutter, a former head coach in San Jose while Lombardi was the GM.

Sutter had been out of hockey since resigning as GM of the Calgary Flames last December, and away from the bench since stepping down as head coach of the Flames in 2006, prompting Lombardi to initially ask Sutter whether he had the itch to come out of retirement. Sutter had spent most of the past 12 months on his cattle ranch 90 miles north of Calgary.

"He never really called me about the job, he called me to see if I was interested in coaching again," Sutter said. "We talked over the years about working together somehow, some way, again. So that's, quite honestly, how it came about."

Sutter said he never expected the Kings would have a job vacancy this winter. Murray had led to Kings to back-to-back playoff appearances and owned the best winning percentage of any coach in franchise history. But the team faltered after a 5-1-1 start and their lack of scoring became the heart of the problem. The team toppled to last in the NHL in goals-per-game (2.12), a number that continues to drop as the Kings have not scored more than two goals in their last 12 games.

"Now that Terry's gone, we have to move on," captain Dustin Brown said. "Some of us have been together four, five, six years -- and Darryl's coming in brand new and doesn't know any of us. But I don't think it's going to be that difficult.

"It's one thing if you're going to bring in a new coach and he's going to bring in a whole new system. Then it could be really difficult, because then you're thinking about what you have to do on the ice -- as opposed to reacting," Brown added. "As Darryl said to us, everything's going to be the same in terms of our system and our personnel. It's our attitude that's going to have to be the difference-maker."

Brown hasn't had enough time to do any advance scouting of his own on his new coach with other players around the league, but did have a chance to talk with one of Sutter's former players -- teammate Scott Thornton -- after scoring the deciding goal in Monday's 3-2 shootout win at Toronto.

"Scott said he hated him when he played for him. But looking back, he said it was some of the best hockey he's played as a professional," Brown said. "I don't really know the man very well yet and I haven't spent much time with him, so it's hard for me to comment on what he's going to bring. But there's some renewed excitement here."

Sutter said he wouldn't have taken the job if he didn't like what he had to work with. He said he believes the team's scoring woes have been skewed by a few obstacles this season, namely the concussion that has sidelined leading goal scorer Mike Richards the last eight games, the absence of 2010 Norris Trophy finalist Drew Doughty from training camp while his representatives negotiated a new contract and offseason shoulder surgery to high-scoring winger Justin Williams.

Sutter said the NHL has become more defensive-minded as well, calling it "a 3-2 league" in reference to the typical final score.

"It's not as easy as it sounds to score goals," said Sutter, who is signed through the 2013-14 season.

Also on the ice Wednesday was John Stevens, an assistant coach under Murray who served as the interim head coach the last four games while Sutter took care of immigration issues and found help for his ranch. Assistant coaches Bill Ranford and Jamie Kompon also practiced with the team, but Sutter did not discuss their long-term future.

"Being close to the holidays, I just want to focus on this group," Sutter said. "Those guys are familiar with the team and that helps."

As the players get to know Sutter, several said they are aware of his reputation of having a gruff coaching style. Dustin Penner said he might just have the right personality to push them out of their rut.

"He's very demanding of his players," Penner said. "He expects a lot. He pushes you to new levels, that maybe you didn't know were there before."

The Kings were 24-19-5 with five ties against teams coached by Sutter, but finished lower in the Western Conference standings than Sutter's clubs in seven of his nine full seasons behind the bench. The last time Sutter coached a game at Staples Center was April 2, 2004, when the Flames clinched a playoff berth with a 3-2 win.

This is the ninth time in franchise history the Kings will finish a season with a different coach than the one they started with. They made the playoffs on three of those occasions -- 1982 after Don Perry replaced Parker MacDonald, 1987 after Mike Murphy took over for Pat Quinn, and 1988 after Robbie Ftorek succeeded Murphy.

Sutter will coach against all three of his former teams within the next 3½ weeks, starting with the Sharks on Friday night at San Jose.

Information from ESPNLosAngeles.com's Dan Arritt and The Associated Press was used in this report.