SAN JOSE, Calif.- After a thrilling overtime game 1 Thursday, both the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks experienced some upheaval on what might have otherwise been a typical day of practice and preparation.
For Los Angeles, their versatile center Jarret Stoll has been suspended for Saturday’s game 2 for his hit on defenseman Ian White in the first period of game 1. On the San Jose side, it appears White will miss at least game 2.
There was no boarding penalty called when Stoll checked White from behind into the end boards. White went face-first into the dasher board, sustaining an apparent but unconfirmed concussion.
While Kings Head Coach Terry Murray said he accepted the NHL’s decision, he felt that the standard applied by the league to this incident and others in the past suggested a suspension was due for San Jose’s Jason Demers. Demers leveled Ryan Smyth in the neutral zone during the third period of game 1. Though no penalty was assessed, there may have been a multitude of options for an observing official.
Murray called Demers’s hit “five times as severe” as Stoll’s and compared its intent directly to that of Steve Downie’s hit on Dean McAmmond that resulted in a 25-game suspension for Downie at the start of the 2007-2008 season.
Stoll, a right-handed shot who plays in all situations, became the latest in a series of setbacks due to man games lost for Los Angeles. Stoll’s linemate Justin Williams just returned from injury to score two points in game 1. The Kings’ top forward Anze Kopitar will be out for the entire playoffs due to a broken ankle.
“(Stoll) not only plays a lot of minutes on our second line–and you saw the success they had last night– he is a key faceoff guy, he is a power-play point shooter, he’s one of our top penalty killers, really important, certainly, on the penalty-kill faceoff side of it, and he’s gonna be missed,” Murray said.
Stoll said his phone call with the NHL’s senior vice president and director of hockey operations Colin Campbell lasted about 15 minutes.
As for San Jose, Ian White did not practice today. He remains doubtful for game 2 and there exists no timetable for his return.
While the usual playoff vageries were tossed about, the appearance of the play, the description of his symptoms by Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan as “not feeling real good” and the response that he “spent time” with team doctors all seem to point to a concussion.
The veteran blue-liner Kent Huskins has been nearing a return from his own injury and may replace White in the lineup, McLellan said. If he remains unavailable, it will be the rookie rearguard Justin Braun back in the lineup after being scratched in favor of Niclas Wallin in game 1.
With Stoll’s suspension, the attention of some following the Kings turned once again to their top prospect, center Brayden Schenn. Schenn spent some time up with the Kings early in the season before he was returned to the major-junior Western Hockey League and then recently assigned to the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League.
Coach Murray reiterated that while Schenn was ready to play in terms of his size and offensive ability, his game in other areas still needed improvement. Despite his outstanding performances at the World Junior Championship and for the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades, Murray felt those limitations remained in place.
Schenn would be particularly challenged, Murray continued, to immediately re-adjust to the speed of the NHL game and go nose-to-nose with the likes of the San Jose pivots Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski. Given that Schenn would be recalled for just one game at San Jose, he would have to make an instant adjustment and be at the mercy of McLellan, who would control the matchups as the home coach.
Instead, John Zeiler will be recalled from Manchester to center Alexei Ponikarovsky and Kevin Westgarth most likely. Though Murray did not state it firmly, it seems that Oscar Moller will be scratched for game 2.
The promising Manchester center Andrei Loktionov will be sidelined until next season following shoulder surgery for an injury that occured in February. So the 27-year-old Zeiler, who spent four games with the Kings this season, got the call based on his experience and readiness for the physical battle ahead in game 2.
The Kings’ assistant general manager Ron Hextall expressed disappointment with the decision to suspend Stoll, but sounded confident that the team could replace his contributions by committee.