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Kings' fast start isn't a surprise, but Anze Kopitar's goal-less drought is

Kopitar, who led the Kings with 34 goals and 81 points last season, has been playing with different linemates, but says it's no excuse for his slow start. He says he's concerned, but not alarmed.

October 19, 2010|By Helene Elliott

Four games into their season the Kings are 3-1, goaltender Jonathan Quick has an 0.97 goals-against average and center Anze Kopitar's score line has a zero in the goals column.

Only one of those facts is surprising: that Kopitar hasn't found the net after leading the team last season with a career-high 34 goals and 81 points. He acknowledged he's concerned but not alarmed.

"I mean, it bothers me in a good way," he said Tuesday after the Kings' practice in El Segundo. "You play the game to score goals. There's no panic or anything yet."

It is early. But that zero is magnified when compared to the terrific start he enjoyed last season while centering for Ryan Smyth and Justin Williams. Kopitar had three goals and nine points in his first four games and led the NHL with 33 points in 22 games before Smyth suffered a rib injury and the line broke up.

Kopitar began this season with Smyth and Dustin Brown but Smyth was replaced by Andrei Loktionov in the third game and only Brown seems to have benefitted, with two goals. Kopitar, who has three assists, said the line must spend more time in the offensive zone than it has, "and I think we're getting there." As for his own game, he doesn't need to look at video to know what he must do.

"A little more drive toward the net and just drive toward shooting pucks and picking up spots to score goals," he said. "Last year I got off to a pretty good start. This year, not so much. There's still some points on the board but there's more from me for sure."

He didn't blame the change in linemates for his drought.

"I've been in, I guess, a passing role so far with Brownie but it doesn't matter too much," Kopitar said. "It's one of those things where I get a good bounce or I get a couple shots and I get my confidence back. Not that I lost confidence but just get the feel back for the net again. Just pop one in, hopefully."

Who's in, who's out

The Kings will begin a stretch of seven games in 11 days Wednesday with goalie Jonathan Bernier starting against the Carolina Hurricanes at Staples Center and Quick set to face the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday at Glendale, Ariz.

"In the early part when I pencil these games in on the goaltending side of it, I look at our No. 1 goaltender, Quick, being the goalie that I want to have in division games," Coach Terry Murray said.

He also changed the fourth line, scratching rookie Brayden Schenn and enforcer Kevin Westgarth to insert Kyle Clifford — who played the first two games — and Trevor Lewis, who will make his season debut. Brad Richardson will center them.

Murray said he wanted to reward Lewis, see whether Clifford has progressed and have Schenn work on defensive-zone coverage. "I don't know how long I'll be out and hopefully I'll be back soon," Schenn said. "The main thing is just keep working hard and not let it bug you."

Defenseman Matt Greene, meanwhile, is scheduled to get an update on his surgically repaired left shoulder. If all goes as expected he will return to the lineup during the upcoming trip.

"It feels better than it's felt the last couple of years," he said.

helene.elliott@latimes.com

twitter.com/helenenothelen

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