VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Los Angeles Kings coach Terry Murray continually stressed over the past two days how much he liked his team's performance in Thursday's 3-2 overtime loss to the Vancouver Canucks in their playoff opener.
His "drastic" lineup changes heading into Game 2, however, would suggest otherwise.
The Kings shook up their lineup during Saturday's morning skate and are benching first-line winger Justin Williams, third-pair defenseman Randy Jones and fourth-line enforcer Raitis Ivanans. Scott Parse and Rich Clune are the replacements up front with Peter Harrold substituting for Jones along the blueline.
"On the blueline I'm going to take Jones out of the line-up and putting Peter Harold in and the reasoning applies to Jones and Justin Williams, I need them to have bigger bite on the game," Murray said. "Both players are veteran guys and we added players such as Williams and Jones to be important players this time of the year but for Williams, unfortunately with his severe leg injury ... it's just not there right now."
Murray spent much of the morning skate talking to Williams, who is one of four players on an inexperienced Kings team to have won a Stanley Cup and a player Murray said would be a key leader in the locker room prior to the series.
"It's a drastic move I know," Murray said. "It's a very hard move for a coach to make. It's one of the hardest things you do as a coach is to take a veteran player out of the lineup and try to get the player to understand why. But it's Game 2 and right now it's about winning the game. It's not about the feelings. I'm trying to do the right thing to help the Los Angeles Kings win this second game."
"I liked Raitis' game. I like what he's been doing in the last several games that he has played," Murray said. "I'm looking at making a change there on the fourth line to give me an opportunity to play some more minutes from that group. It's four minutes, five minutes with Raitis, only, and I think I can go deeper into the game with that kind of a look."
The Canucks may also be making a lineup change before Game 2 although head coach Alain Vigneault wasn't as forthcoming as Murray in announcing his plans before the game. Rookie Michael Grabner skated on the team's fourth line in practice Friday and at Saturday's morning skate, taking the place of Matt Pettinger, who had been the center between Steve Bernier and Rick Rypien. While Vigneault wouldn't confirm the change, if it occurs, Rypien would likely move to center with Grabner playing wing.
Arash Markazi is a reporter and columnist for ESPNLosAngeles.com.