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More ice time paying dividends for Kings’ Adrian Kempe

ANAHEIM – Forward Adrian Kempe had 11 goals and 13 assists ahead of his Kings’ game Sunday at Anaheim. Six of those goals have come over the past five weeks.
Interim coach Willie Desjardins believes more time on the ice is proving beneficial to Kempe. He averages 14:09 per game, but he hasn’t played to that or under since he played 12:53 in a Feb. 2 road game against the New York Islanders.
Since then he has played as much as 17:45 in a game and has been over the 17-minute mark five times.
“I don’t know,” Desjardins said. “The thing about Kempe, in my mind, the more you give him the better he plays. Like, he just seems to be a guy that when he gets a little bit bigger role, he plays a little better. Related Articles

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“I think that’s been the case. I think if you look at his minutes, he’s getting a few more minutes and I think as a result, he’s playing better.”
Kempe, just 22, is in his third season with the Kings . He had two goals and four assists in 25 games in 2016-17 and 16 goals and 21 assists this past season.
Kempe had a goal in Saturday’s 4-2 loss at Arizona.
They’re trying
It has been a rough season for the Kings, who will miss the playoffs for the third time in five seasons since they won their second Stanley Cup title in 2014.
But Desjardins would never want anyone to think the players don’t care, and that they’re just going through the motions of playing out a poor season.
“We’re hard on ourselves,” Desjardins said. “Guys beat themselves up after every game that we lose. … Guys are not happy with it. But lots of nights there is lots of good effort. It’s not translating into wins, but there’s different guys that are battling.
“You look at Kempe. He had a good game last night. He played hard. Look at (defenseman Alec) Martinez. There’s a guy that comes in, he worked hard, he’s joining the rush all night long. There are guys that are battling inside there. I think there is commitment there.”
The Kings were 24-36-8 (56 points) before Sunday.
Harry Howell dies
Former Kings defenseman Harry Howell died Sunday at age 86.
Howell played 18 games for the Kings in 1970-71, 77 the next season and 73 in ’72-’73. He had eight goals and 36 assists for them.
Howell played in a total of 1,160 NHL games and had 82 goals and 263 assists (345 points). He was in seven All-Star games.
After his NHL career was over, he played three years in the now-defunct World Hockey Association, finishing his playing days at the age of 43 in 1976.
Leipsic sits
Kings forward Brendan Leipsic was a healthy scratch Sunday as the Kings went with seven defensemen. Desjardins was quick to say he likes what Leipsic has done since coming to the Kings via waivers in early December.
But Desjardins wants to see Leipsic improve the defensive part of his game.
“It’s a tough one because I just think he can be a little better,” Desjardins said.
Leipsic has four goals and 12 assists in 41 games with the Kings.
The Kings will open a five-game homestand Thursday when they host Nashville. Other games will be against Florida on Saturday, Winnipeg on March 18, San Jose on March 21 and Anaheim on March 23.

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