Kings Unhappy with Stoll Suspension
Chance for Trevor Lewis to step up with team down its top two centers
Off the ice, there was drama, frustration and a lot of phone calls.
The Kings learned, shortly before their afternoon practice, that center Jarret Stoll had been suspended for one game for his hit on San Jose defenseman Ian White in Game 1, a hit that will likely sideline White for Saturday night's Game
2 at HP Pavilion.
Already without injured top scorer Anze Kopitar, the Kings will try to even the series without their top two centers. Trevor Lewis, previously the fourth-line center, moves into a higher-profile role between wingers Ryan Smyth and Justin Williams, and the Kings have called up John Zeiler from Manchester of the AHL to center the fourth line.
Not surprisingly, the Kings didn't agree with the suspension for Stoll, who hit White from behind, causing the Sharks winger to go face-first into the end boards. The Kings, though, were downright irate at the lack of a suspension for San Jose's Jason Demers, who was unpenalized for apparently hitting Ryan Smyth in the head in Game 1.
"My thoughts on the hit, or the league's decision, is that we will accept the decision made by the league and get through the next game," Kings coach Terry Murray said. "But I want to say this. If Jarret Stoll gets suspended for that hit, then Demers' (hit) is five times more severe, on Ryan Smyth, than what Jarret Stoll did on White. He meets every criteria that you could read about, from league memorandums.
"Every coach, every player, every management (member), every owner knows about it. If you travel distance, you launch yourself two to three feet off the ice and thrown an elbow at a person's head, that is a suspension, big-time suspension. I was behind the bench when Philadelphia played in Ottawa and Steve Downie got suspended for 25 games. There is no difference in the intent of that hit."
Stoll participated in a conference call Friday morning with league vice president Colin Campbell and others, and less than three hours later, the Kings learned that they would be without Stoll for Game 2. Stoll practiced, but wore a gray jersey along with injured winger Scott Parse, and not his usual white practice jersey.
"Obviously, I'm disappointed and upset with the decision," Stoll said after practice. "I don't want to miss any games, whether it's regular season or especially the playoffs. I'm really disappointed with the decision but I respect it, and I respect Colin's decision, to do what he did and give me the game."
Kings general manager Dean Lombardi didn't attend practice and didn't return a call seeking comment about the suspension, but assistant general manager Ron Hextall expressed sentiments similar to those of Stoll.
"That's a tough one," Hextall said. "Me, personally, I'm disappointed in the decision, but we've got no choice but to live with it. That's kind of where I'm at with it. … What I saw on the play was that Ian White hit his head on the dasher. To me, is that reflective of Jarret Stoll, or is that reflective of where he hit the boards? When I look at it, Stolly didn't take a stride after the faceoff dot. He turned his feet at the goal line and then went in to pin the player. That's what I saw. He hit his head, obviously, on the dasher. It's a physical game and things happen. So I'm disappointed."
After the Sharks' practice, coach Todd McLellan said White was unlikely to play in Game 2, leaving Justin Braun and Kent Huskins as his probable replacements.
"I hope he's OK," Stoll said. "You never want to see a guy get knocked out or have a concussion or miss any time. I missed a lot of time with a concussion years back, and I know what it feels like. I definitely don't want to put anybody in that situation. He's a good player. I played against him in junior. I know a lot about him and I just hope he's all right."
CHANCES FOR LEWIS, ZEILER
Center prospect Brayden Schenn is scheduled to report to Manchester of the American Hockey League this weekend, and the Kings did not divert from that plan when they learned of Stoll's suspension.
The Kings could have called up Schenn, whose junior season ended on Wednesday, but instead chose to promote Lewis to Stoll's spot and call up Zeiler, who played four games with the Kings in late November and early December.
Zeiler, 28, is in the final year of his contract and has bounced between the Kings and the Monarchs since the 2006-07 season. Zeiler totaled nine goals and
19 assists in 69 games with the Monarchs this season.
"We felt like Trevor was our best offensive option to move up," Hextall said.
Secondly, we felt that, on the fourth line, John Zeiler is the right guy at this time, in this series.
"John Zeiler has worked extremely hard. He had the one little stint (with the
Kings) this year, but he has worked hard for Manchester. He's their checking guy and, again, at this time we felt that he was our best option, with moving Lewie up and putting Zeiler in the middle on the fourth line."