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Kings will fill holes left by two injuries

Drew Doughty says team's depth will help make up for the loss of Willie Mitchell and Alexei Ponikarovsky. Terry Murray tries new lines and defensive pairings during practice.

November 09, 2010|By Helene Elliott

After having their entire lineup available for not quite two games, the Kings are filling the gaps created by injuries to defenseman Willie Mitchell and left wing Alexei Ponikarovsky.

Mitchell (fractured left wrist) was placed on injured reserve Tuesday and defenseman Jake Muzzin was recalled from Manchester of the American Hockey League. Ponikarovsky (fractured finger) hasn't been placed on IR, but that could change before the Kings' next game, against Dallas on Thursday at Staples Center.

Both were hurt Saturday during the 4-1 victory over Nashville that extended the Kings' winning streak to four and improved their home record to 6-0-0.

Defenseman Drew Doughty said the duo's experience will be missed, but the team's depth will help compensate for their absence.

"I know we're fully confident here that the guys who are going to replace Mitchy and Poni are going to do their jobs just as good as they were," Doughty said. "We have no doubts we're going to continue on this roll."

The defense pairings in Tuesday's practice were Rob Scuderi-Doughty, Davis Drewiske-Matt Greene, and Jack Johnson-Peter Harrold. Coach Terry Murray said he'd reconsider that Wednesday, after Muzzin practices with the team.

Brad Richardson took Ponikarovsky's place on the third line with Michal Handzus and Wayne Simmonds. Murray said he hadn't decided who will play on the fourth line but plans to include Kyle Clifford, which would be the rugged left wing's 10th game. That would trigger the first year of Clifford's entry-level contract.

"I'm not going to get my hopes up until it's set in stone," Clifford said. "I'm staying grounded and just doing what I do out there. I'm just going out there and taking it all in while I can. If it happens that I am fortunate enough to stay here, then thank God."

Murray also said he's pondering using Brayden Schenn or Trevor Lewis to center the fourth line. Schenn has played eight games and is in the same situation as Clifford: If Schenn plays nine games he can return to his junior team without activating the first year of his contract. If he plays 10 games a full year will be charged.

Paying the penalty

The Kings' penalty killing has been one of their strengths, at a league-leading 100% at home (21 for 21) and a 90.7% kill rate overall. Mitchell and Ponikarovsky have played key roles in that success, but Murray has no choice but to adjust without them.

"Other guys will get an opportunity to step in and play. It's just one of those things that happen," he said.

He said he might substitute Anze Kopitar for Ponikarovsky on the first unit, with Handzus. "I really like the way Kopi's been killing penalties this year," Murray said.

Take a seat

In honor of Veterans' Day, for every $30 ticket purchased to Thursday's game, the Kings will donate a ticket to a member of the military. Team captain Dustin Brown has donated 40 tickets. For more details, go to http://www.lakings.com/seatsforsoldiers.

Slap shots

The game misconduct assessed against Brown for an illegal hit to the head of Minnesota's Antti Miettinen on Oct. 25 was rescinded, a club spokesman confirmed. The 10 penalty minutes stay in Brown's total but he remains clear under Rule 48.6, which says that any player who incurs two game misconducts under this new rule will be suspended for his team's next game. His total for that purpose stays at zero.

At general managers' meetings Tuesday in Toronto, the idea of allowing coaches to challenge one on-ice ruling per game was shelved after gaining little support. Florida's Dale Tallon had made the suggestion, based on the coach's challenge rule in the NFL. "Certainly there have been a couple of incidents we talked about but not enough to merit a rule change or a video review change that would lead to that opportunity," Ottawa's Bryan Murray told nhl.com. "For now, shelved."

Detroit GM Ken Holland's idea to go to three-on-three in overtime was held over for future discussion but changes to the All-Star game appear imminent, pending agreement by the NHL Players' Assn. Fans would still choose the starting lineups but the team captains would pick the rest of each team from a pool of players chosen by the NHL's Hockey Operations department.

The general managers postponed formulating a policy on social media. "I think the thoughts on social media are that we don't know enough about it," Buffalo Sabres GM Darcy Regier told the Globe and Mail newspaper . Regier has become a target of fans unhappy with the Sabres' performance, and some have used his name to post on Twitter. "Apparently, I have a number of Twitter accounts, none of them my own," he said.

helene.elliott@latimes.com

twitter.com/helenenothelen

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