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Kings' top line not quite top-of-the-line

November 05, 2008|Chris Foster and Helene Elliott | Foster and Elliott are Times staff writers

There are more than a few items on the Kings' wish list.

They could use a second-line center. They are still waiting for goaltenders to develop. A few more fans in the seats would be nice.

But in terms of what is attainable immediately, nothing would make Coach Terry Murray happier than to see his top line perform like a top line.

The trio -- Anze Kopitar at center, Dustin Brown at right wing and fill-in-the-blank at left wing -- has not measured up in Murray's assessment thus far.

"You're looking for your premier players to take control whenever the game is on the line," Murray said. "Whether that's protecting a one-goal lead or when you're down by a goal and are looking for something to happen in the offensive end, those players are required to play the game the right way, at a high level consistently."

The Kings are 1-6 in one-goal games.

Through 11 games, Kopitar has one goal and seven points and Brown three goals and seven points, while a casting call seems to go out each day to fill out the line.

Jarret Stoll, who has four goals and six points, started on the first line against the Ducks.

"We need some offense from that line right now," Murray said.

"You're going to get matched up against a defensive line, against defensive defensemen who specialize in shutting teams down. But that is something you need to figure out."

Said Kopitar: "The best players are under pressure all the time and they have to perform."

No more Gaborik talks

Internet warnings went out recently that the Kings were interested in Minnesota Wild forward Marian Gaborik, who will be an unrestricted free agent after this season. A team source said that those talks amounted to little more than tire kicking, though the Kings may be in the market for a high-end offensive player and a second-line center down the line.


Kings defenseman Jack Johnson, who underwent surgery three weeks ago to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder and wasn't expected back until after the All-Star game, said Tuesday he's about five weeks ahead of schedule and expects to begin skating within the next two weeks. He has already begun weight training.

Two Kings and four Ducks are among the 104 players listed on ballots for the All-Star game, to be played Jan. 25 in Montreal. Brown -- a first-time nominee -- and Kopitar will represent the Kings. Goaltender J.S. Giguere, defensemen Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger and center Ryan Getzlaf are the Ducks' nominees. Voting will begin next Wednesday.

Ducks General Manager Brian Burke again declined to comment on whether he's interested in signing free-agent center Mats Sundin, who has been working out in Southern California.

The Kings' scratches were Derek Armstrong and Brad Richardson, both by coach's decision. The Ducks' scratches were George Parros, whose right eye remains swollen after being hit with a stick last Friday, and Brad May (sprained knee).


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