Originally posted on Red Light District Hockey  |  Last updated 12/5/11


On Thursday night, Los Angeles Kings leading scorer Mike Richards took a shoulder to the head from Florida Panthers left wing Sean Bergenheim. The former captain of the Philadelphia Flyers would briefly remain on the ice but was noticeably skating at a slower speed and out for revenge as he took double minor penalties for slashing and roughing.

The Kenora, Ont., native was then taken to the quiet room, as per an NHL-mandated policy, and was not allowed to return. One day later, the Kings placed Richards on injured reserve and will be out at least seven days. When asked by local media, Kings coach Terry Murray would only say, “It’s going to be a few games.”

Well, expect the Kings to struggle for 'a few games.'

Outside of the Richards acquisition, this Los Angeles Kings team is pretty much the same club from last year. The same team that finished as the seventh seed, just three points ahead of ninth place Calgary Flames. Moreover, a team that finished 26th in goals forced.

Compared to last season, there were a few changes. Simon Gagne joined his former teammate in Richards while the team also added formerly discarded veterans Ethan Moreau and Trent Hunter. No other changes were made from outside the organization with the exception of promoting two young Russians: Andrei Loktionov and Slava Voynov.

You could argue that GM Dean Lombardi filled most of his holes from last season, but this club has much less depth. While he replaced Michal Handzus and Ryan Smyth with Gagne and Richards, he failed to replace potential scoring threats Wayne Simmonds and Alexei Ponikarovsky. Instead, Lombardi grabbed cheap replacements and tried to plug those roles internally.

The result has been the same as last season: low scoring output. While the production of the top two is serviceable, the 10 players who Murray has iced on the bottom two lines combined for a whopping six goals. Adding insult to injury, Richards accounted for 19 percent of the team's scoring output.

Their third line currently consists of the aforementioned rookie Loktionov as well as spare forwards Kevin Westgarth and Brad Richardson – who combine for one goal in 27 games. Their lack of depth and offensive pressure puts added stress on the scoring lines. However, the scoring lines can be easier defended against if a team has a legitimate shut down line or if the opposition plays tight defense.

Saturday's 2-1 loss to the struggling Montreal Canadiens was a perfect example of just that. The Kings mustered 27 shots on goal, but 11 of those attempts came from low percentage areas. When the team fell behind, the Canadiens sat back and defended for over half the game. Still, the Kings lacked the drive to get the puck past Carey Price.

If the Kings are to gut through these injuries, they will need to do it on the back of their strength – strong goaltending combined with tight defense. They received excellent netminding from Jonathan Bernier yesterday while Jonathan Quick has arguably been the best starting goalie in the League. Considering they play in the ultra competitive Pacific Division, nobody will grant them any favors. This game plan will need to work every night.

Simply put, expect these Kings to struggle for a few games.

Photo credit: Getty Images

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