The Kings won’t have team captain Dustin Brown when they face the San Jose Sharks in the regular-season finale Saturday night at Staples Center. Brown will serve the second game of a two-game suspension from the NHL for elbowing Jason Pominville of the Minnesota Wild during the Kings’ loss Tuesday. Brown is eligible to return for Game 1 of the playoffs next week. Until then, the Kings will be shorthanded.
The Kings didn’t get their first shot on net until Dwight King’s backhander from the right wing at the 15-minute, 26-second mark of the opening period Monday. Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne turned that shot and two others aside in a period that required very little heavy lifting. Jonathan Bernier started in goal for the Kings and needed to make only five saves to keep the Predators scoreless.
The question Friday was specifically about the struggles of Kings forward Dwight King. But coach Darryl Sutter used it as a chance to speak about the overall lack of scoring depth from the Kings to start the season. He wouldn’t single out King.
The Kings held a relatively routine morning skate at Toyota Sports Center this morning. Here are the line rushes:
Dustin Brown – Anze Kopitar – Justin Williams
Simon Gagne – Trevor Lewis – Jarret Stoll
Jordan Nolan – Colin Fraser – Kyle Clifford
Dwight King – Brad Richardson – Dustin Penner
Brad Richards and Jeff Carter took the optional morning off. They’ll be in tonight, but who will skate at left wing on their line remains a question mark; more on that in a bit.
The D pairs were fluid — Rob Scuderi took the optional too — but you can expect the usual configuration against the Ducks tonight in Anaheim:
Rob Scuderi – Drew Doughty
Slava Voynov – Alec Martinez
Davis Drewiske – Jake Muzzin
Richardson and Andrew Bodnarchuk are the expected scratches.
Clifford is the team leader in points, as I pointed out in my game preview. Head coach Darryl Sutter wasn’t exactly effusive in his praise of the young winger, however.
“Our left side has a grand total of two goals this year in six games,” Sutter said. “He’s got one. Brown’s got one.”
Will Clifford slot in with Carter and Richards again? “We’ll see how the game goes,” Sutter said.
The coach also attempted to temper the high expectations for Dwight King, who made a memorable impact during the Kings’ run to the Cup, but has been all but invisible this season. The second-year left wing was demoted to the fourth line this week.
“He didn’t get here until January last year and he didn’t really do much until playoffs,” Sutter said of King. “We brought him up here because the team was struggling on left wing. We brought him up here and he played in the playoffs and he played well. He went back to the American League and leveled his game out and now he’s got to get his intensity back to the NHL level.”
If Dustin Penner stays in the lineup as expected — regardless of which line — expect King to be the odd man out. For now, it seems like less a comment on any individual than on Sutter’s dissatisfaction with the left wing position in general.