|Is it just me or does Penner look like he's aged 10 years in the past 6 months?|
Simon Gagne was out for both games this past weekend, so Dustin Penner was moved from the second line to the top line playing with Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams. Scott Parse took Penner's spot alongside Dustin Brown and Mike Richards. So what happened? Mike Richards scored!!! Dustin Brown and Willie Mitchell assisted on the goal. As soon as it happened all I could think was, "Poor Penner". As soon as he moves off that line Richards scores....coincidence? The Kings looked out of sorts against Phoenix and like the game against the New Jersey Devils, where there was absolutely no chemistry among the team, Coach Murray switched up the lines in the third period. Penner ended up playing either on the "third" or "fourth" line (although can you really associate numbers to the lines when they're so mixed up?) and Trent Hunter moved up to the top line (exception: any line with Kopitar will always be the #1 line). And TA-DA!!!! Kopitar scored a goal and Trent Hunter was credited with an assist. Poor Penner...
Other than the goals there wasn't really all that much to cheer about. Drew Doughty was finally back in the lineup, but he looked really, really, really rusty. The Kings had a power play late in regulation and Doughty and Jack were on the ice and I couldn't help but think maybe it would have been better to have only Jack on D and replace Doughty with Stoll. Overtime losses always suck, but I suppose it's slightly better than losing in the shootout.
The following day the Kings traveled to Colorado for one hell of a frustrating game. The Kings had a wide advantage in shots, yet I was shocked the Kings had that many shots on goal because so few of them seemed threatening. The Avs got a fluky goal when the puck hit the boards weird and instead of going around the net, where Quick was ready to meet it, it ended up flying back out in front of the net where an Avs player easily tapped it home. But one fluky goal does not a loss make! (that makes sense, right?) The Avs also scored a short-handed goal (totally inexcusable) and capitalized on a neutral zone turnover. Meanwhile the Kings just couldn't finish five-on-five. I feel like it's last season all over again.
I'm beginning to get a little worried that Simon Gagne is the key to the success of the top line. Williams-Kopitar-[anyone but Gagne] is nowhere near as effective as Williams-Kopitar-Gagne, which is scary considering Gagne's injury history. The second line looked much better in the game against Colorado; Scott Parse had a strong game (except for those freaking penalties!) and Dustin Brown was doing everything but score. Even Penner had a good game! I felt bad for him again because he drew two penalties, but failed to get an assist on either power play goal. Awww, poor Penner!
But you know what? Penner didn't play all that bad this weekend. In fact, I thought he played pretty well. It might not be saying much considering how he started the season, but I thought he had his best game against Colorado (I feel like a broken record, but he did!). He looked good on the forecheck, forced some turnovers, created scoring chances, drew a couple penalties that led to power play goals, and threw his body around. It's finally looking like he's playing a complete game. I agree with all the Penner haters that he should have looked like this since Game 1, but at least he's making progress and it looks like his game is finally coming around. The forwards are having an awfully difficult time scoring at even-strength, so hopefully Penner can get his groove back (from 2007) and Gagne can get healthy so the Kings can ice three solid lines and the guys can finally get some consistency with their linemates. I was bummed on Sunday when I realized the next game wasn't until Thursday. But it looks like the team could use those days off for Murray to give them a stern-talking to (I just can't imagine him raising his voice, he reminds me of my dad in that manner) and for the guys to get healthy. At least the power play is finally clicking; Jamie Kompon must be relieved since apparently assistant coaches can get fired mid-season. The Kings are strong up top and there's no excuse for them to only eek out two goals a game.