Sutter still tinkering with lineup

CHICAGO -- With Mike Richards a 50-50 possibility to play Saturday night, according to Kings coach Darryl Sutter, his line combinations from the morning skate may or may not mean anything.

They were:
Brown - Kopitar - Williams
Penner - Carter - Toffoli
King - Stoll - Lewis
Clifford - Richards - Nolan
Pearson - Fraser - Richardson

"I have no idea," Kyle Clifford said when asked if there was anything to read from those line combinations.

"No clue," added Jordan Nolan.

Most telling, at least according to those morning lines at practice, was Anze Kopitar back on the top line and Jarret Stoll back on the third line after the two had switched spots for both games in Los Angeles.

Sutter talked about that possibility after the morning skate, saying the fact he didn't have a last line change at the United Center would be part of the reason for putting the struggling Kopitar back on the top line.

"We don't get the change we want here," said Sutter. "You can't change on the fly. That's a big part of it. It's really got nothing to do with Kopy. Kopy has been as good as their best centerman in the series when you look at it. It's got nothing to do with Kopy."

As for Richards, Sutter said it's going to be up to the doctor as to whether his star center returns to the lineup. With the Kings' season on the line, you know Richards would do anything he can to return, but he's going to have to be medically cleared.

"You do what you're told medically, not any other way," said Sutter.

Richards politely declined to chat with media after the skate.


Their season is on the line Saturday night, but you wouldn't know it from a happy-go-lucky bunch in the Kings dressing room after the morning skate.

"The mood's light. You can't change anything. You can't be uptight; you have to be loose," veteran center Colin Fraser said. "You have to have fun. The second you're too uptight, or nervous, that's when you don't play as good. We're loose and ready to go."

And they still believe, pointing to the Hawks reversing a 3-1 Detroit lead in the last round.

"They proved that it can be done last series," said Fraser. "Nobody quits in the conference finals. We're playing in June, might as well make it worth it."

There's quiet confidence in the Kings room, a knowledge that comes from winning the Cup last season.

"One thing about this group of guys is we tend to play our best hockey when we're really in trouble," said Stoll. "You look at last year in the regular season -- I think we were in 13th place with 20 games to go. It's a different situation when you've just got one game to play, but you can draw on being in the trench hole together. I think it's key for us, the fact that we've been through it together and we've been down in the holes together. I think the most important thing is just leaning on each other at a time like right now."

Coming off a third period in Game 4 in which they produced only two shots on goal, the Kings want to get way more rubber on Hawks goalie Corey Crawford in Game 5.

"We have to get more pucks to the net, more bodies to the net," said Stoll. "That's not just the third [in Game 4]; it's the whole series. The Hawks have done a good job in limiting our rush chances. With the way their D skates, we have to place the pucks better and get through the neutral zone better. I think the neutral zone has pretty much been the key for the whole series. Their transition game is really good, and if we're going to turn the puck over or not get through the neutral zone cleanly, it's going to play into their hands."


The Kings will need two wins at the United Center to come back and win this series -- a daunting task when you consider their 1-7 road playoff record.

"The biggest challenge for us, if they're all over us in those first 10 minutes, the crowd's going to be right into it," Kings star blueliner Drew Doughty said Saturday morning. "They're going to feed off that energy, and it's going to be tough to get back in the game. Right now, our focus is the first shifts and get a goal and deflate them a little bit."

Beat the Hawks twice in Chicago? Bring it on, said veteran winger Justin Williams.

"We're not scared of it," Williams said Friday night after the team arrived from L.A. "We're certainly not scared of it. We're going to welcome the challenge to beat the best team in the league this year in their own house, starting [Saturday night]."


Chicago has killed 54 of 56 opposing power plays in these playoffs, a remarkable 96.4 percent success rate and another reason the Hawks are one win away from the Stanley Cup finals.

Fourth-line winger Marcus Kruger and Michael Frolik are the lead penalty killers, both players finding a nice niche with their excellent work.

"It's working pretty good so far," Frolik said Saturday morning. "We try to keep the shifts short and the energy high. We talk about it before the game in terms of what we want to do. Krugs and I make sure we're on the same page, and we make sure we outwork the power play."

Many teams use their top players as their top penalty killers, but Hawks coach Joel Quenneville decided earlier this season to give Kruger/Frolik a whirl in part because of the compacted, lockout-affected schedule and his concern of taxing his top stars too much.

"I think [it] probably started out as a lockout [thing], knowing we wanted to make sure we maxed out, try to get everybody involved in the game, keep the top guys rested a little bit more," Quenneville said Saturday, explaining why he went to Kruger/Frolik as his top penalty killers. "Such tight days between games ... it worked well, so we've gone with it."