Kings give youth a try

first_imgLauri Tukonen became the latest kid to get the call, as the 20-year-old winger made his NHL debut and joined a small squadron of under-25 Kings hoping to make a strong impression for the future. In addition to Tukonen, the Kings are giving significant minutes to Dustin Brown (age 22), Michael Cammalleri (24), Alexander Frolov (24), Anze Kopitar (19), Patrick O’Sullivan (22) and John Zeiler (24). That group entered Thursday with a combined 741 NHL games, more than 300 fewer than Rob Blake. Zeiler scored his first NHL goal in the first period to give the Kings an early lead, but Vancouver’s Kevin Bieksa broke a 2-2 tie with 3:56 remaining to give the Canucks their sixth consecutive victory. “It was a great game, a tough-fought battle,” Zeiler said. “Getting that first (goal) off your back is a good feeling. You always dream about playing in the NHL and then to get your first goal, it makes it that much more special.” The Kings have won just four of their last 19 games and are 1-7 in their last eight games decided by one goal. Since his arrival last April, Kings president and general manager Dean Lombardi has preached the power of developing young talent, the same strategy he used in turning San Jose into a perennial power. Lombardi’s trades have focused on bringing draft picks to the Kings, and recent minor-league callups and line pairings make it clear that Lombardi and first-year coach Marc Crawford want to evaluate youth. The good feelings from Zeiler’s first goal didn’t last long. With 3:48 left in the first period, Brendan Morrison, camped out to the left of the net, knocked in a rebound of a shot by teammate Sami Salo. Vancouver took the lead 1:34 into the second period, when Trevor Linden came up the left side and put a relatively harmless wrist shot on goalie Mathieu Garon but got it into the net for a 2-1 Canucks lead. Vancouver entered the game with the NHL’s best penalty-kill unit, but with five minutes left in the period, Lubomir Visnovsky flipped the puck over the prone Roberto Luongo to tie the game 2-2. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!center_img LOS ANGELES – With only pride and draft position left to play for, this is the time for the Kings to experiment a little. The present is dim – the Kings, in last place in the Western Conference, lost to Vancouver 3-2 on Thursday night at Staples Center – so the Kings are looking to what they hope is a bright future. last_img

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