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Los Angeles Kings: 5 Players That Need to Step Their Game Up

Jason LewisCorrespondent IIOctober 30, 2011

Los Angeles Kings: 5 Players That Need to Step Their Game Up

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    The Los Angeles Kings hit the 10-game mark last night, and with the pressure to perform at a high level riding on the team, they have come away 6-2-2.

    So it's a pretty good start out in La La Land.

    Anze Kopitar is playing well, Mike Richards is fitting in nicely and Jonathan Quick has been fantastic. However, with the Western Conference being the beast that it is, everyone needs to be on their A-game.

    It's hard to be critical so early in the season of any player, but there are a few on the Kings who need to jump to the next level to keep them sitting among the top of the Western Conference.

Drew Doughty

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    Doughty is back, and he is healthy.

    Now it's time to prove that he is worth $7 million a season.

    Doughty has played five games, has one assist and is an even zero in plus/minus. He has the disadvantage, though, of not participating in preseason or training camp, so Doughty is literally three to four weeks behind every other player on the team.

    That being said, Doughty has to put the boo birds of last season and this offseason behind him and make Kings fans love him again right now. Shake the rust off ASAP and bring it like in your sophomore year, Drew.

Jack Johnson

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    Jack Johnson suffers from an interesting problem. He has been far and away the Kings' best defensemen through the first 10 games of this year.

    But now Drew Doughty is back. This means Johnson isn't going to be the go-to-guy on the power play, he isn't going to be the top pairing defenseman and his minutes are going to be reduced.

    Johnson and Doughty have had an interesting correlation over the last year. Many Kings fans would agree that when Drew Doughty has been off his game or out of the lineup, Jack Johnson has thrived. And with Doughty being the Alpha Dog, Johnson's play slides.

    But with Doughty back, Johnson needs to continue his solid form and not wither in the secondary role, something he has struggled with.

    If the Kings can get Doughty and Johnson both playing their A-games at the same time, watch out.

Kyle Clifford

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    I know, you're thinking, "C'mon man, you are asking for more from a 20-year-old 3rd/4th line grinder?"

    Yes, yes I am.

    It's not about what Clifford puts up in the goal or assist column, it's the intangibles. And honestly, they haven't looked nearly as intense as they have been in the past.

    He is averaging maybe nine minutes a game, and to be honest they have been a pretty uneventful nine minutes. How uneventful?

    Over 10 games, Clifford has taken only six shots, has 18 hits (an average of less then two hits a game) and blocked one shot. He also has just one fight, and it was in the first game of the year.

    I don't want to be too hard on Clifford, he is very young. But there needs to be more fire and agitating in the forward's game. He needs to make those nine minutes a game nine minutes of hell for the opponent.

Jonathan Bernier

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    This is the second year for the Kings organization in which people have predicted an amazing goalie battle to ensue, tossing around the question, "Who will be No. 1?"

    And again, by no fault of Jonathan Bernier, it's Quick by a mile.

    Bernier is not going to get many starts with the way Quick is playing, but when he gets those starts, he has to play lights out.

    Bernier is 0-2 on the season so far and has looked average, even if his numbers look bad (.857 save percentage, 3.56 GAA). He hasn't been bad or good, just average.

    Quick is going to need a rest sooner or later, and when he does get one, Bernier will need to shine.

    It isn't going to be about how many starts Bernier gets, it's going to be about making the most of limited opportunities moving forward.

Jarret Stoll

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    What? How did Dustin Penner not make this list? 

    Seriously though, I am going with baby steps on Penner, and so far, even though he doesn't have good numbers, his effort has been 200 percent better then last season. The points will come. The effort is nice to see.

    But Jarret Stoll has looked, for all intents and purposes, ineffective thus far. 

    Maybe he is adjusting to his new role as a third line center and not a second line center. Nonetheless, Stoll hasn't looked nearly as capable as last season. He has two points in 10 games, and his all-important faceoff numbers have slipped, although he is still above 50 percent.

    Stanley Cup-winning teams are not often just led by a great top six. They need the quality bottom six as well. And Jarret Stoll has the opportunity to be the leader of the bottom six.

    It's time to step up, Stolly. Make every shift count like it is your last in L.A. Because remember, it's a contract year. Oh, and that guy Loktionov has looked pretty impressive...

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