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Johnson in Line for Praise

KINGS REPORT

March 29, 2000|HELENE ELLIOTT

Left wing Craig Johnson has tantalized many coaches with his speed but frustrated them with his lack of finishing ability, as evidenced by his nine goals and 21 points in 70 games.

But with Ziggy Palffy recovering from a sprained right shoulder and Nelson Emerson idled because of a broken right index finger, Johnson has jumped up to the first line. King Coach Andy Murray attributed the idea more to necessity than genius, but he's pleased at how well Johnson has played with Jozef Stumpel and Glen Murray.

"That line has been real good," Andy Murray said. "Stumpel and Murray have played real well. We've thought for quite a while Craig has been a lot better."

Johnson had three assists on the Kings' recent three-game trip, including setups on the tying and winning goals at Philadelphia last Thursday.

Johnson, who has primarily played a defensive role, admires Stumpel's creativity and Glen Murray's hard work. "I get a lot of opportunities because they both are such great players," Johnson said. "I'm just trying to use my speed to get opportunities. Jozef and Glen will get you the puck when you're in good position.

"It's a good opportunity for me. It's a different role than I've been playing all year, and it's fun."

*

Stephane Fiset, who won the first and last games on the 2-0-1 trip, will start in goal tonight. . . . Palffy, who was injured March 15, is regaining his range of motion and may resume skating this week. . . . Emerson will see the doctor again Friday and hopes to return in time for the playoffs.

TONIGHT

San Jose, 7, Fox Sports Net

* Site--Staples Center.

* Radio--KRLA (1110).

* Records--Kings 36-30-10-4, Sharks 32-35-9-7.

* Record vs. Sharks--2-3-0-1.

* Update--The Sharks are clinging to eighth in the West. Their power play hurt them in a 2-1 loss to Edmonton on Monday and is two for 30 over seven games. Center Vincent Damphousse is five points from 1,000. Right wing Ron Stern (leg bruise) and defenseman Jeff Norton (mild concussion) are questionable.

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