Kings Coach Darryl Sutter walks behind the bench in a game against the Anaheim… (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images )
This wasn't quite like last season when Kings Coach Darryl Sutter declared in February that the partnership of Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown had grown stale, essentially calling out the duo.
Instead, Sutter went fairly in-depth on Friday and took some blame in further discussing the recent struggles of the Brown-Kopitar-Justin Williams line. Brown has one assist in his last four games, and Williams has scored twice in his last 11 games but also has 10 assists.
"If you look at Kopitar's line last night, they probably played two or three minutes too much," Sutter said after practice. "That's not because they were doing anything great as a line. They've had a hard time lately.
"That's partly my fault. I played them more than I should and that trickles down to guys below 'em. It's not so much Jordan [Nolan], it's the group, how it spreads out."
The work ethic or "compete" level is not an issue with Brown, Kopitar and Williams.
"Once in awhile, they get out of sync a little bit," Sutter said. "If one of them is just off a little, it affects everybody. That's what happens with high-end guys. Willy has struggled to score this year."
Sutter added, "He's always trying to do everything he can. Sometimes it's better for Willy not to do too much, just do a little bit less, and Brownie will get like that too. Where he will lose his identity once in awhile and you've got to reinforce that."
His analysis of the Kopitar line, in fact, had started with his views on the season-long struggles of fourth line/role player Nolan. He had two goals in 27 games and was a healthy scratch for three straight games before returning to the lineup in Thursday's 2-0 loss to the Dallas Stars.
If Sutter were to get a couple of more minutes out of the likes of Nolan, he would not have had to overload Kopitar and company.
"It's pretty simple. If you want to stay in the lineup, you've got to play to your ability," Sutter said. "… You've got to be able to contribute in all areas of the game. [Nolan] hasn't played as well at any point this year as he did at any point last year."
Kings goalie Jonathan Quick typically downplayed his terrific glove save on Stars defenseman Trevor Daley early in the third period. He expected the shot to come from Jaromir Jagr.
"He had so much time and just more patience than many players in the league," Quick said.
So has Quick's swagger returned? Kings defenseman Drew Doughty contended it never went missing, saying: "I don't think Quickie ever lost his swagger. Everyone expects him to have the exact same year he did last year. And it's pretty hard to live up to repeating a season like that. It's almost … not impossible, but it almost is."
The bar has been set so high with Quick.
"It's tough. He had a Vezina [Trophy] year," Doughty said. "In my mind, I still think he should have won it."
The New York Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist won the award.
SATURDAY VS. VANCOUVER
Where: Staples Center
On the air: TV: FS West; Radio: 1150.
Record vs. Canucks: 1-1.
Etc. Vancouver defenseman Alex Edler was suspended for two games for his hit on Phoenix goaltender Mike Smith in Thursday's game. Edler received a five-minute major penalty for charging. Smith did not practice Friday.