Winger Simon Gagne, celebrating a goal, will return to the Kings'… (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles…)
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Greetings from rainy Glendale. The last time I saw it rain this hard here, I was covering baseball spring training and the only rental car available was a convertible ... with a leaky roof. No leaky roof this time.
The Kings (0-2-1) will make a change in their lineup Saturday night against the Coyotes. Left wing Simon Gagne, a healthy scratch in their previous two games, is scheduled to return to the lineup on the left side with Colin Fraser and Jordan Nolan. Brad Richardson will come out of the lineup and Dustin Penner will stay out.
After the morning skate Saturday at Jobing.com Arena ,Gagne said he'd had a good talk with Coach Darryl Sutter on Friday about his return. “Right now, just get back in the lineup and work my time up a little bit and we’ll see where it goes from there,” Gagne said of his return.
Gagne, who missed much of last season because of a concussion and returned for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final, said he feels fine physically.
“I only had a chance to play one game so it’s hard to know how you feel,” he said. “The first game’s always a weird game, especially when it’s been a while since you played. You’re a little lost out there. Get a couple games under my belt and I’ll be able to tell how I feel. Right now, just by practicing I feel good.”
The defense will stay the same. Willie Mitchell, cleared after knee surgery, participated in the morning skate but Sutter said he doesn’t feel ready to return. “He’s got to push through it. That’s what’s got to happen,” Sutter said.
Sutter was in a good mood, joking that he had to ice his wrist after taking quite a few shots and trying to set an example of what can happen when you shoot a lot. “Every one that hits the net has a chance of going in,” he said. “They’ve just got to believe that.”
Asked why he restored Gagne to the lineup, Sutter said he saw enough good signs to give Gagne another chance after playing in the opener and sitting at Colorado and Edmonton.
“Little more spirit in his game. Little more pace and then we’ll hopefully not have to reevaluate it,” Sutter said.
He also said Penner “is close. He and Simon are sort of in the same situation. Dustin’s in a really good place, mentally .... He can’t use games as preseason games. He’s close, so we just want him to get his game pace to where it’s got to be.”
Overall, Sutter said, the team’s pace must pick up. “We’ve got a really young defense and we need the pace of our forwards to be a hell of a lot better to help those young guys out,” he said.
One forward he has been pleased with is gritty Kyle Clifford, who has moved up to the second line with Mike Richards and Jeff Carter.
“He’s played well. That’s what you have to do. It’s not what somebody’s done or what they might do. It’s what they’re doing,” Sutter said. “And I don’t have any problem addressing that. Cliffie’s hot right now. We’ve got to get Richards going. Jeff’s coming. So that’s all it is. Is that the right spot for Cliffie? We don’t know. Maybe he is the best left winger on our team. We don’t know.”
Sutter also said he wants to see young defensemen Alec Martinez, Jake Muzzin and Slava Voynov shoot more on the power play. The Kings are 0 for 19 with the man advantage this season; a review of the final stats of their 2-1 overtime loss at Edmonton on Thursday showed they had one more power play than the box score initially recorded.
Sutter said Martinez, Voynov and Muzzin have been too deferential in passing to more experienced teammates Anze Kopitar, Carter and Justin Williams while on the power play.
“It’s a learning curve for them,” Sutter said. “They’re playing on the power play for a good reason -- because they have good shots and good skill sets but they’ve got to shoot the pucks where they can’t be so respectful of Kopitar and Carter and Williams that they want to give them the puck. They want to get the puck and pound it and if it hits one of those guys and goes in, so be it. ‘Geez, that hurt.’ That’s what you want. It’s percentages.”
One more note: Dustin Brown, considered Public Enemy No. 1 here for his hit on Coyotes defenseman Michal Rozsival in the last game of the Western Conference final, said he’s not worried about facing boos from Coyotes fans Saturday night. He has more pressing concerns.
“We haven’t won a game yet this year. That’s my focus." Brown said. "If they’re concerned about what happened last year that’s probably good for us because we need two points right now.”
“That’s what happened in the playoffs. You get emotional. That’s what playoff hockey is about. But right now we need to focus on our game because we’ve got to get a win here.”
Brown, Kopitar and Williams have no points this season, and Brown is minus-5 defensively.
“I don’t think we’re getting as many chances as we should, as we’re capable of,” Brown said. “We’ve had some good chances and haven’t buried them but we definitely need to produce more Grade A scoring chances. That’s just a matter of working for them.”
We’ll have more later from Jobing.com Arena.
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