Dustin Penner has been a healthy scratch for the Kings' previous two… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)
Forwards Dustin Penner and Brad Richardson stayed out and did extra work well after the Kings’ morning skate had ended -- as did defenseman Andrew Bodnarchuk -- so it’s likely the Kings’ lineup against Vancouver on Monday night at Staples Center will be the same as it has been the last few games. Penner has been healthy but was scratched for the Kings' previous two games.
Asked if there will be any changes against the Canucks -- whom the Kings upset in the first round of the playoffs last spring -- Coach Darryl Sutter replied: “Be there for the song,” meaning the national anthem. Actually two songs, because “O Canada” will be played in honor of the Canucks.
Sutter also offered no explanation for the absence of defenseman Willie Mitchell, who has not skated with the team the last two days. Mitchell, who has been cleared to play after off-season knee surgery but has been proceeding cautiously, skated with teammates before Saturday’s game against the Phoenix Coyotes. However, he hasn’t been out skating with them since.
Here’s how that dialogue with Sutter went:
Me: “I didn’t see Willie Mitchell skate yesterday.”
Sutter: “No, you didn’t.”
Me: “Or today.”
Sutter: “No, you didn’t.”
Well, that explains it.
Sutter said that because Mitchell is an injured non-roster player, it serves no purpose to talk about him until he is restored to the roster. “Till then, they’re injured,” Sutter said of non-roster players.
I’ve asked General Manager Dean Lombardi whether Mitchell has had a setback or if there’s another reason for Mitchell’s absence the last two days and I’ll provide an update if Lombardi responds.
Two key aspects of the Kings’ game have been missing in action so far this season: the power play, which is 0 for 23, and center Mike Richards, who has no points and is -3 defensively. Defenseman Drew Doughty, who also has yet to earn a point, predicted the power play would improve Monday night.
“We’re working our butts off. We’re practicing. When we don’t score on the power play, we come back to the bench so frustrated,” he said.
“I know each and every one of us wants to take it upon ourselves to get this power play going and I think tonight we’re going to move the puck around quick and get as many shots as we can to the net and after that we know we have guys that can put pucks in the net. So we just have to get that one and then get on a roll.”
Richards acknowledged that he hasn’t been as sharp as he would like to be.
“I think my conditioning is fine. It’s just finding the timing and making those little plays that I’m so accustomed to doing,” said Richards, who stayed around home during the lockout and skated a few times in Winnipeg with members of the Jets. “I’m starting to find that now, whereas before you get them blocked by sticks or people are in the way and you don’t have as much time as maybe you think you do. I think it’s just starting to come back after a couple games, where you’re starting to make those little five-foot plays through legs and in between sticks.
“I think those are the ones that are just starting to come back now. At first they were definitely getting blocked. It’s a little frustrating when you’re used to doing it easily and it’s just not there.”
Richards was highly complimentary of Kyle Clifford, who has joined Richards and Jeff Carter on the second line and leads the team in scoring with a goal and five points in four games.
“He’s been good. Jeff and I were talking the other day and we love playing with him because he creates a lot and has such intensity,” Richards said. “I think when he’s on the ice, everybody is just aware that he’s there, and that creates some space. He definitely makes defenders make plays a lot quicker than they normally would just having him on the ice.”
Out of fear they’ll be hit by the burly Clifford, no doubt.
“I would be [scared] too,” Richards said, laughing. “It’s been good. He definitely adds that dimension to your line and I think his skill level is underestimated.”
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