By Paul Armbruster • KingsNewsDaily.com •
After a solid win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday, which brought the club back to an even record and got them off to a good start after leaving California, the Stanley Cup Champion LA Kings have undergone a number of significant changes.
- First, on Wednesday afternoon, it was announced Kings promising prospect Andrei Loktionov was traded to New Jersey for a 5th round draft pick. The move was not a surprise considering his public desire to leave the organization and his apparent fall from grace within Kings management. While some made a strong case why this was a mistake, most thought it was a prudent move.
- Then came word that the Kings called up rarely discussed defenseman Andrew Campbell from Manchester, sending down another prospect (Bodnarchuk) in his place. As with most of these moves, there was a lot of fan chatter about how Campbell would fit into the Kings plans on a depleted defensive corp. Many thought he would make his Kings debut against the Predators on Thursday but that proved not to be the case as the pairing of Drewiske and Muzzin stayed together.
- Next was yet another disappointing offensive effort against the Predators losing 3-0. While the Kings defense is still a concern, it seems rather obvious that scoring zero goals is of equal concern.
- Cut to: Friday morning it was announced the Kings, using the 5th round pick they got from the Devils, picked up Florida’s disappointing 2007 #1 draft pick Keaton Ellerby. Ellerby, a stay-at-home defenseman, appears expected to come in and give the Kings a lift in the absence of veterans Matt Greene and Willie Mitchell. Some pretty big skates to fill indeed. Especially for a guy already under a ton of pressure to perform in an anemic Panthers market and now under the spotlight in LA? Talk about going out of a sunny Florida frying pan and into the fire!
- Of course, this meant a very quick end to the Campbell call-up when it was announced he would be heading back to Manchester. Out with the new, in with the even-newer I suppose.
This leads us to Saturday’s practice in Nashville before the team headed to Detroit for tomorrow’s early contest against the Red Wings. Not only was the new defenseman Ellerby paired with Kings superstar Drew Doughty (how about that for even more pressure Keaton?), Coach Darryl Sutter made major changes to the forward lines as well.
Jon Rosen of the Insider reported that along with D-man Muzzin, Dustin Penner was wearing a ‘scratch’ jersey. This isn’t a change as Penner has been scratched a lot. But Penner has also been included on practice lines where today he apparently wasn’t. To me, this marks a significant change in Penner’s status within the organization and may lead to his ouster altogether sooner rather than later. This is pure speculation mind you and little more than an educated guess.
The big shakeup on practice lines were as follows:
Gagne (12) – Kopitar (11) – Brown (23)
Clifford (13) – Carter (77) – Williams (14)
King (74) – Richards (10) – Nolan (71)
Richardson (15) – Stoll (28)/Fraser (24) – Lewis (22)
Ellerby (5) – Doughty (8)
Scuderi (7) – Voynov (26)
Martinez (27) – Drewiske (44)
First up, Dustin Brown jumps back on the right side. This is an odd change at first glance but coupled with the 2nd line change at center, starts to make sense. Putting Simon Gagne on the left with Kopitar and Brown gives Gagne the ‘shooter’ role and that was what was missing from the Brown/Kopi/Williams line it seems to me. Anze Kopitar certainly needs to shoot more himself, but with Gags next to him and Brown crashing, I think it gives Kopitar 2 targets to dish the puck to who can finish. Williams has only 1 goal in 9 games on that top line and that’s just not going to cut it so a change was necessary.
On the 2nd line, with Jeff Carter moving back to center, it really frees up Sutter to find complimentary wingers for him. Kyle Clifford’s rise and fall and rise again must make him feel like he’s at Magic Mountain and not heading to Detroit. Dustin Penner would be the natural choice on the left side but that’s just not in the cards it seems. With Justin Williams play-making ability and him dishing to Carter, I can see them being a pair for a long while if they start to produce. Clifford gives the line the forechecking that’s needed to keep the puck in and both he and Williams can both put Carter’s rebounds in the net.
With Carter back at center, it really changes the approach to how Sutter puts the pieces together and marks a major change down the middle. I figured if the Kings kept struggling, that’s what would happen and sure enough here it is. Mike Richards obviously moves to the 3rd line center where he is reunited with Dwight King and Jordan Nolan. When King and Nolan first came up to the Kings last season, Richards was their centerman while Stoll recovered from an abdominal injury. Richards, I believe, really compliments King and Nolan much more so than Stoll. This should be a fun line to watch. Good size, super gritty and a scoring threat.
The 4th line, or as I’ll call it the ‘Center’ line (since all skaters are natural centermen) is very odd to see at first. Jarret Stoll and Trevor Lewis essentially move down together leaving Colin Fraser and Brad Richardson as the two battling for a spot it would seem. Since someone has to sit and Richardson has been the odd-man-out, it makes sense on the surface to put him in the press box. However, if I’m guessing (which I am) I think having Stoll and Fraser on this line during practice means one of them sits tomorrow and not Richardson or Lewis. My thought is Fraser, who has struggled early on, won’t play. This essentially would make the “4th” line, a second “3rd” line.
Time will tell how this particular lineup makes due, but one thing is certain. Something needed to be done. With the Kings languishing at the bottom of the conference and time running out quickly, Coach Sutter is shuffling the deck in hopes of reigniting a team that seems to have left its Cup magic on Staples Center ice back in June.