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Kings show what they are missing

Philadelphia 3 Kings 2

November 19, 2009|HELENE ELLIOTT

Anyone who has followed the Kings for more than a few seasons is conditioned to wait for the next shoe -- or skate -- to drop during even the most prosperous of times.

No matter how many good things happen, an injury or slump always seems to come along to delay their progress and dash fans' hopes yet again.

There has been more prosperity this season than most in recent memory, but it's worth wondering how long that will last now that left wing Ryan Smyth is projected to be out of the lineup for as long as a month after suffering an upper-body injury Monday.

The Kings' first full game without Smyth, the fearless, experienced forward who did so much to galvanize linemate Anze Kopitar this season, was a dud offensively and not much to brag about defensively, either.

The Flyers scored twice in the second period and again early in the third Wednesday to earn a 3-2 victory in front of an announced Staples Center crowd of 17,821 that included more than a few Flyers fans. Goaltender Brian Boucher yielded only a gift goal in the first period to Jarret Stoll and a power-play one-timer to Drew Doughty with 7:51 left in the third, rarely facing much pressure until the Kings pulled Jonathan Quick in favor of an extra attacker late in the third period.

"I'm pretty disappointed in that loss. The reason we lost that game is that we let them have three easy goals," Doughty said. "I guess the positive is that we were determined to come back and we got some chances and a couple got behind them, but they just didn't go in the net."

A shot by Kopitar skimmed the goal line but stayed out with a few seconds left.

"We played well enough to win," Coach Terry Murray said. "But the Flyers played a real good road game . . . and they capitalized on turnovers and mistakes we had."

Club policy is to not disclose injuries. Smyth walked through the locker room after the game and reiterated that his injury was to the upper body but did say it was not a concussion. "I'm OK," he said.

The question is whether the Kings will be OK without him.

"We're not a one-man team," Doughty said. "He's obviously a great player and one of the best players in the league. . . .

"We've all got to step up to the plate and play that much better, kind of try and replace what he was doing for us."

The Flyers are a deep and physical team, and they won for the seventh time in eight games. So it would be premature to declare the Kings in trouble only because of this loss.

But losing Smyth seemed to take the heart out of the Kings, who have lost three of their last four home games. Alexander Frolov replaced him on the top line with Kopitar and Justin Williams, but Frolov didn't have a shot on net until the final minute and rarely was around the net, the area in which Smyth does so much of his work.

Murray said he didn't want to single out Frolov but conceded "the line itself needs to be better," and said Smyth's absence presented that trio a chance to shoulder more than its share of the leadership.

A few Kings did meet the challenge. Stoll played a strong game -- his pass to Doughty set up the second-year defenseman for the one-timer that made the game close -- and Williams was persistent, but that wasn't enough for the Kings to prevail.

"He's going to be gone for a month and somebody else is going to have to step up," Kopitar said.

They started out well. Dustin Brown got the primary assist on their first goal, Stoll's seventh of the season, and paid for it. Brown carried the puck from the neutral zone and into the Flyers' end, where he was hit hard by defenseman Ryan Parent. Brown went down, but the puck squirted over to to Stoll, whose shot slipped inside the left post at 14:53.

The Kings gained a two-man advantage at 18:22 but couldn't capitalize, passing too much in search of the perfect shot instead of simply firing the puck at the net as Murray has been trying to drum into their heads.

The Flyers scored twice in the second period to take a 2-1 lead. They pulled even at 7:52, moving the puck quickly and well, from the left point to the right circle for a shot that was blocked, but Mika Pyorala lunged and swatted the rebound in for his first NHL goal.

The Kings began to scramble in their own end and paid for it at 18:55. Darroll Powe shanked his shot on a good opportunity, but the Flyers kept possession. Matt Carle got it to Claude Giroux, who fed Mike Richards for a quick shot that whipped past a kneeling Quick.

The Flyers pushed their lead to 3-1 at 1:47 of the third period, capitalizing on a power play that carried over from the second period after Brown was sent off for boarding after a nasty hit on Richards from behind. Braydon Coburn's shot from the blue line went wide of the net and off the end boards, but it caromed to James van Riemsdyk. He poked at the loose puck and it appeared to glance off Quick's stick and into the net.

Part of maturing is conquering challenges. Playing without Smyth will be the true test of how far the Kings have come -- and how far they might yet go.


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