(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

A Look Ahead: SJ Sharks & Major Line Changes

The last two games the Los Angeles Kings have played have been disappointing to say the least. After blowing a 2-0 lead in Dallas, followed by the inability to score on wide open nets against the Blackhawks (I’m looking at you Trent Hunter), I’m starting to feel the way a Ducks fan might feel right about now. With the NBA returning around Christmas, the Kings literally cannot afford to play this kind of hockey.  Do they think that they will continue to sell out games playing like this once the Lakers make their return? There is just no way. All of the casual sports fans that have been attending the games because there was no NBA and because “The Time Is Now,” have probably realized that they should be saving their money to watch a team that knows how to win. It was the most perfect opportunity for the Kings to build a bigger fan base than they’ve ever had and now they only have about a month left before the basketball superfans start taking over Staples Center. Tonight at 7:30pm, they will host the San Jose Sharks (13-6-1). Yippee! The Sharks are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games and the Kings are 5-4-1. You can go ahead and make the prediction there. ….Ok, and NOW I am going to leave my negative attitude at the end of this paragraph and start talking about some potentially very positive and drastic line changes that were made at yesterday’s practice.

It seems that Terry Murray and the rest of the coaching staff have finally said enough is enough. Here is how the Kings forwards were lined up at practice yesterday:

Brown-Kopitar-Hunter/Gagne-Richards-Stoll/Clifford-Loktionov-Williams/Moreau-Fraser-Westgarth

We’ve seen Brown and Kopi together in the past, but the addition of Trent Hunter to the TOP line is a little bit out of left field for me. It’s probably just because I can’t get that damn replay out of my head from Saturday’s game. I guess if I were to pretend that didn’t happen, Hunter played a decent game. He brings a lot of intensity which the team could always use and hopefully he will be able to contribute in that way tonight.

The second line is the one I’m most excited about. Simon Gagne and Mike Richards played side by side in Philly and had a lot of success. I always assumed that they would be paired together at the start of the season, but the trial line of Gagne, Kopitar, and Williams was so successful for a quick minute that they didn’t want to mess with the chemistry. Now is a perfect opportunity to put them together and see if they can bring back the magic. The biggest change is the movement of Jarret Stoll from center to right wing. Stoll has played center for the majority of his 8 year NHL career, but the third line has not suited him well this season. With Dustin Penner still out, they have the ability to move his replacement Andrei Loktionov down to the third line playing his natural center position, giving the Kings some room to move Stoll around.

Kyle Clifford had a great game against the Blackhawks. He was one of the few guys on the ice that was forcing turnovers and creating offensive opportunities. As we saw last season, Cliffy can dominate when he is paired with the right guys and I think he has more than earned his shot to play alongside Justin Williams and Loktionov. No changes have been made to the fourth line unless Murray decides to replace someone (cough, Ethan Moreau) with Richardson or Lewis, not likely though.

Defense pairings will be: Scuderi-Doughty/Mitchell-Voynov/Johnson-Greene. Alec Martinez is still on IR and practicing with no-contact. Quick will get the start in net.

The Sharks are being led in points by none other than their Captain Joe Thorntonthe man responsible for ending the Kings 2010-2011 season in overtime. Their four-game win streak was snapped by the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday, but they still hold the #1 spot in the Pacific Division. The Kings lost to the Sharks 4-2 in their first meeting of the season on November 7th and look to turn things around tonight. One thing is FOR SURE, the Kings need this win tonight…bad.

What do you guys think about the line changes???

Tags: Alec Martinez Anaheim Ducks Andrei Loktionov Anze Kopitar Brad Richardson Chicago Blackhawks Colin Fraser Dallas Stars Drew Doughty Dustin Brown Dustin Penner Ethan Moreau Jack Johnson Jarret Stoll Joe Thornton Jonathan Quick Justin Williams Kevin Westgarth Kyle Clifford Los Angeles Kings Matt Greene Mike Richards Philadelphia Flyers Rob Scuderi San Jose Sharks Simon Gagne Slava Voynov Terry Murray Trent Hunter Trevor Lewis Vancouver Canucks Willie Mitchell

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