Originally posted on Fox Sports West  |  Last updated 11/4/11
There's certainly potential for this Los Angeles Kings team to put up impressive numbers on offense. Quick in transition and tinged with speed, the veteran forwards and mobile defensemen boast superior depth and skating ability over that of many National Hockey League teams. The off-season acquisition of Mike Richards was made with the Kings' depth at center in mind. With one of the game's best two way players in Anze Kopitar leading the attack up front, Richards's slot above Jarret Stoll gives Los Angeles three productive and responsible centers, helping create difficulties in opponents' matchups, especially at STAPLES Center. Regardless of a small sample size, through the first month of the season no noteworthy leap has been taken offensively by a team that ranked 25th last year with 209 goals scored and enters play this weekend averaging 2.17 goals per game, down .38 from last year. "It's funny how at some points in the season, it's just the net looks like a soccer net, and sometimes when things aren't going well, it looks like a mini-hockey net," Richards said. "You just can't put too much pressure on it. It's when you start cheating that you start having problems, and as long as we stick with the system, we've got some good players here that are going to make plays and are going to get some goals. Just stick with the system, believe in it, trust it, and eventually it's going to come." At practice on Friday, much attention was paid to offensive zone work and creating opportunities for players to get good looks around the net. In an effort to raise the level of competition and work generating some ugly goals from close range, one of the nets was moved to face directly towards one corner of the rink, 20 feet away from the boards. The small confines allowed for battles and positioning in front of the net, along with the occasionally "greasy" goal, which the players will look to generate against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday (7:30 pm FOX Sports West KTLK 1150). "Those are the goals that you need to maybe start to score in order to get it so that the other part comes, the pretty part," Head Coach Terry Murray said. "The highlight reel kind of a goal comes later. But you have to get back and get dirty and get to the front of the net. It's always been a big part of the game, anyway. Net presence and shooting pucks and paying a price there is an important part of the game every game that you play, and I feel that we're in and out of it on that part of it right now." Marc-Andre Fleury, who the Kings will likely face on Saturday, is one of seven goaltenders currently boasting a sub-two goals against average, not that it changes team's approach to the game. "Any game we play, we go in and say Let's get traffic on this guy,' Brad Richardson said. "It doesn't matter what goalie it is number one in the league or a back-up goalie playing it doesn't matter. You need traffic on goalies. They're all good." Two players potentially capable of providing a physical, difficult-to-move body in front of the net are Dustin Brown and 6'4, 242-pound Dustin Penner, who has yet to find his niche with just one assist through 10 games. Entering the season, Penner seemed to be a wildcard if able to forge a return to previous levels of productivity, this Kings offense could feature many dimensions difficult to match up against. Thus far, he hasn't hit his marks. "I'd like to see him have the puck on his stick for longer periods of time, to get his speed going, carrying the puck through the middle of the ice and challenging defensemen more," Murray said. "He's got size, strength, he can take the puck to the net. We're starting to see better skating in the last few days in the games and in practice, and that's where he's going to get to with his game. The other part of it with a player like Dustin, he's a goal scorer. He's got great hands, an incredible shot, and we need to find the way to get the puck to him at the right time, too, to be able to finish. So it's a little bit of a combination of three, four things now that's off." Justin Williams saw a need to improve several facets of the team's play following the second consecutive 3-0 loss on home ice while referencing the consistency in the team's disciplined, defense-first approach. "It's tough to isolate one thing. It's just overall. I mean obviously Thursday night was just let me think of a nice word it just wasn't simply good enough offensively," Williams said. "Come playoff time, we win by playing our system and playing good defensively." NOTES: Jonathan Quick will get the start for Los Angeles on Saturday. His home shutout streak was snapped at 151 minutes, 26 seconds on Thursday when Ryan Smyth's centering feed deflected off Alec Martinez's stick and Quick's head before finding the back of the net... Thursday night was the 22nd consecutive Kings sell-out at STAPLES Center; the last time the team sold out 23 consecutive home games was between December 11, 1993 and March 30, 1994... Less than 200 tickets remain for Tip-A-King on November 13, the annual event that acts as the single largest fundraiser for the Kings Care Foundatiod and has raised more than 2.5 million dollars for local children's charities. For tickets and more information on Tip-A-King, please visit www.LAKings.comtipaking.
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