You probably already know the crappy part.

Willie Mitchell has a fractured wrist.  Not expected back until early-mid December.

Alexei Ponikarovsky broke a finger.  Don’t plan on seeing him in a game until early December either.

Well this sucks.

Losing Ponikarovsky hurts the overall team speed and size.  Losing Mitchell screws up the top pairing.

Both are big parts of the Kings’ dominant penalty kill and this is where we will feel their loss the most.  Offensively, the Kings are no worse for wear, although Mitchell was our top goal scoring defenseman this season with a whopping single goal).  Defensively, our shot blocking ability took a huge blow.

Before I start to sob quietly into the small wounds I gash into my skin with the nearest protractor, lets get to the intriguing questions and attempt to save this gloomy Monday.

First question:  Who bumps up to the top pairing?

Does Murray break up the Johnson-Scuderi pairing?  I don’t think so.

That leaves Davis Drewiske or Matt Greene.  When Mitchell left the game against Nashville, Drewiske saw the ice time with Doughty.  So you could say he is the front runner, but will Murray really trust Whiskey with 20+ minutes regularly?  I don’t think so.

Greene?  This is the most likely option.

Now assuming Johnson-Scuderi remains a pair, what happens to the bottom pairing?  Certainly we will see a defenseman called up soon.  Conventional wisdom would say that Jake Muzzin will be back with the Kings before Thursday’s game against Dallas.  However I believe this depends on whether Murray plans on playing the call-up more often or if Peter Harrold now has the next month on the bottom pairing locked down pending a consistent performance.  If Harrold is going to play in Mitchell’s stead, does Lombardi want Muzzin in the press box for a month?  Probably not, but that said, I feel positive saying that the Kings will not purposefully go into any game days with only 6 six defenseman on the roster.

Next question.  Who replaces Ponikarovsky?

I see two main options.  Kyle Clifford or Brad Richardson.

You might immediately think “Clifford!” and leave it at that.

However bumping Richardson up to the LW3 allows Trevor Lewis or Brayden Schenn to anchor the 4th line on a regular basis and keeps Clifford in the spot where the Kings want him.  I guess Schenn and Lewis (or a call-up) are options for Handzus’ left side, but I doubt we see that for anything more than a quick experimentation.  Also, I doubt we see a forward called up at all unless Schenn or Clifford go back to juniors.  This decision will also be made by Saturday, if not sooner.

Which brings us to the final question, one that will solidify that lineup card page as the bane of my existence.

How crazy will Murray go?

These injuries open up the possibility for Murray to change the lines for lord knows how long until he finds something he likes.  Perhaps he will make changes for Thursday and stick with them for a while.  However I find it much more likely that the third and fourth lines will have different looks from night to night.

The most important thing to come out of these injuries is an opportunity.  Not for any one player, but for the team.

Good teams deal with injuries.  Great teams don’t let injuries slow them down.

The next month will truly test the mettle of this Kings team.

By Christmas, we will know whether they are for real, or if I’m going to bleed out from death by a thousand cuts.

Categories: L.A. Kings News

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9 replies

  1. atleast now we’ll see how deep our organization is… this should be interesting… can our club stay in high gear without 2 big defensive pilars? wonder how our PK will fair

    • The PK is the biggest concern by a mile. Our depth is great. I am fully confident we can keep on winning at a good clip. I’m not so sure our PK can continue to be so nearly perfect. If we are still top 5 in the NHL by the time these two guys come off IR, I will be doing backflips.

  2. Does Muzzin get more frequent flyer miles?

  3. Unless he is injured which I have not heard, I can see Moller getting called up to take the 3rd line roll or possibly fill in on the 4th line. I don’t see an all rookie 4th line. That is not Murray’s style.

    • Excellent point about Murray’s style.

      Since he took over the coaching gig in LA, he has maintained, at least in my estimation, a system that emphasizes teaching the rookies and finding balance.

      Put a rookie with a seasoned veteran. Pair the young and old. Last season saw a breakout year for Doughty with a great pairing with Scuderi.

      • Bobby, Bobby, Bobby, this is why I do the lineup card.

        We have already seen all-rookie fourth lines.

        Clifford-Schenn-Westy against Vancouver, Dallas and New Jersey.
        We saw Clifford-Lokti-Westy against Minnesota.
        Clifford-Loki-Lewis against Chicago.

        That’s 5 games out of 13 where we had an all-rookie 4th line. Doesn’t seem like its not Murray’s style. Maybe not his strongest propensity, but certainly not out of the question at all.

  4. Agreed, PK will be potentially affected the most. Good news though is our PP has sucked, so what we loose in PK prowess we can easily gain back with an improved PP. We can only ascend so I feel good about that.

    Tough choices at forward. I still think Clifford will stick, not so sure about Schenn. Do we bring up Loki or as you suggest, which I like, Moller. How about Cliche? I have no clue. I know one thing, it’s marvelous the have choices.

    I’m not worried at all about our defense. We have our group from last year, which wasn’t too shabby with DD2 playing solid. I am fully comfortable with Muzzin and Harrold. The latter two will not dazzle you but rarely make glaring mistakes. Still a formidable group.

  5. Our best penalty killer has got to be our goalie, so this can be less of a disaster since our goaltending has been top notch so far. This also gives another D-man the minutes needed to prepare fopr a playoff run. We some how managed to get points without Doughty, and who would have thought we would be first in the west with 1 assist only from DD, who could have dreamed such illogical could be reality. Poni’s spot is important due to the 3rd line paired against the leagues best, and as much as I feel Clifford needs to stick, facing the leagues best night after night on the 3rd line should be Richie’s responsibility without question. The 4th line center job was the next step for Lewis, NOT for Schenn. If Lewis fails, then bring up Cliche NOW!!! This was his calling anyway, and he would probably be here if he wasn’t injured this summer, and shut down is his calling. I’m still more concerned with the quality of our scoring chances, and our low shot output per game. We need to counter a loss in defence with shoring and improving our offence, with almost 8 mil in payroll sitting out a month or so.

  6. Well surprise surprise. Doughty will play with Scuderi.

    Probably means Johnson-Greene and Drewiske-Harrold/Muzzin, who has supposedly been recalled.

    Also, Richardson gets the nod on the 3rd line.


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