HELENE ELLIOTT

Kings want Jake Muzzin to help keep aging defense fresh

Coach Darryl Sutter is looking for Muzzin to handle more ice time, so that Willie Mitchell and Robyn Regehr can do more with fewer minutes.

DETROIT — Defenseman Jake Muzzin's emotions swung quickly Thursday from exhilaration to exasperation.

The 24-year-old scored the Kings' first goal against St. Louis — his first point in 15 games — but was responsible for the Blues' equalizer after his shot on goal was blocked and turned into a breakaway for T.J. Oshie. Muzzin impeded Oshie, who was awarded a penalty shot and scored.

"Stuff's going to happen. There's no sense dwelling on it or letting it affect the rest of your game," he said Friday after the Kings practiced at Joe Louis Arena. "It was the second period and we had more than half the game left that we had to be there for and try to make a difference."

The Kings won, 4-1, and Muzzin was plus-1 defensively over 19 minutes 22 seconds. Being able to quickly leave a gaffe behind is his biggest improvement since early-season struggles consigned him to being a healthy scratch five times.

"Mentally being consistent and getting over mistakes and playing with confidence," he said of the areas in which he has progressed. "Staying confident and knowing we have a good team, a good group in here that we can rally around."

Coach Darryl Sutter said he'd like to see Muzzin step up so 36-year-old Willie Mitchell and 33-year-old Robyn Regehr can play fewer minutes and be more effective.

"Those are the minutes we need to get out of him, if you look at it," Sutter said. "With Robyn and Willie, they give you everything they got, but they're not kids. And with our schedule, when you're pushing those guys into the lows 20s, it affects their game and affects their performance and back to back nights….

"I'm not being critical of Muzz, but we need Muzz to be a good player for us. It's really clear."

Vey awaits chance

Forward Linden Vey didn't play Thursday after being recalled from Manchester (N.H.). Since he stayed on the ice for extra work Friday, it's unlikely he will play against the Red Wings on Saturday.

Vey, who had five assists in 14 games in his first recall, said he anticipates an easier adjustment this time. "I'm excited to be back here and hopefully I'll contribute," he said.

He also said he had seen winger Tyler Toffoli, who was assigned to Manchester on Jan. 14 after going scoreless in 11 games.

"You're always a little disappointed when you go down. It's tough, because he did so well up here," Vey said. "But this is such a good team and sometimes you have some ups and downs in a season. He knows, and everyone knows, he's going to be back up here because he's such a good player."

KINGS AT DETROIT

When: 4 PST.

On the air: TV: Fox Sports West; Radio: 1150.

Etc.: The injury-plagued Red Wings are expected to be without forwards Pavel Datsyuk (lower-body), Daniel Alfredsson (back spasms), Johan Franzen (concussion) and Darren Helm (groin), and defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (ribs). Once formidable at home, the Red Wings are 6-10-7 for 19 points, which ranked 28th in the NHL through Thursday's games.

helene.elliott@latimes.com

Twitter: @helenenothelen

 

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