Kings rookie Jake Muzzin has three power-play goals and seven power-play… (Harry How / Getty Images )
When the Kings acquired defenseman Robyn Regehr from Buffalo earlier this month, Alec Martinez was squeezed out of the lineup. When Matt Greene returned Thursday after missing all but one game because of back surgery, Keaton Ellerby was squeezed out of the lineup.
Rookie Jake Muzzin has kept his place through those changes, and he has earned it. His plus-13 defensive rating is tied for second on the team behind Justin Williams' plus-14, and he's among the NHL's rookie leaders with seven goals. He's also among the top rookies with three power-play goals and seven power-play points, one reason the Kings' power play ranked eighth in the NHL through Friday with a 20.6% success rate.
Muzzin benefits from the fact he plays the left side and Ellerby plays the right side — as does Greene — but Muzzin has been impressive by any measure. He has provided production and balance for the Kings, who were poised to clinch a playoff spot Saturday if Detroit lost at Vancouver.
"He's just been real solid from day one," Rob Scuderi said. "He's given us a lot of great minutes, a lot of extra power play time. You can't really say enough about his effort."
Muzzin, 24, played 11 games for the Kings in 2010-11 but spent last season in the minor leagues. He has matured and now feels comfortable — but not complacent.
"I know I have to continue playing well and continue working and getting better," Muzzin said after being paired with Greene in Saturday's practice at El Segundo. "I have lots to improve on, and stuff like that, but with these new guys coming in and old guys coming back in, it's good for the team. It's a competitive environment in here, which brings the best out in all the guys."
His shot is one of his best assets because it's considered "heavy," meaning it generates spin on the puck and is tough to stop. He practiced it many hours in the family driveway in Woodstock, Canada, at the urging of his father, Edward.
"We had a fence that took a beating and we had to take it down after a while," Muzzin said. "He always stressed when I was younger, 'Work on your shot. Work on your shot.' It's just one of those things that has developed."
Jonathan Quick, who is expected to start Sunday against Dallas, has stopped 98 of 104 shots in his last four starts, a .942 save percentage. His overall save percentage has risen to .901….Greene reported no problems after playing in his return. "All good," he said….The Kings are merely five points behind the slumping Ducks for the Pacific Division lead, but Kings Coach Darryl Sutter long ago conceded the division title and hasn't changed his mind. "That shouldn't be the focus of anything," he said. "We just want to take care of our business and let it fall where it may."
Where: Staples Center
On the air: TV: FS West. Radio: 1150.
Record vs. Stars: 1-3.
Update: The Stars have won four straight games at Staples Center and outscored the Kings, 7-2, to win their first two games in Los Angeles this season.