Oscar Moller gets his sixth, and biggest, chance to impress at the NHL level. Moller made the Kings’ roster out of training camp in 2008 and played 30 games before suffering a shoulder injury at the World Junior Championships. He returned in February and played 10 games. In 2009-10, Moller played two games in October then returned in December for a stint. This season, Moller played four games in December when Brad Richardson was sidelined by injury, and Moller had one goal and two assists in four games. Now, due to Justin Williams’ shoulder injury, Moller is back, in a high-profile role on the first line with Anze Kopitar and Dustin Penner.
Moller, who turned 22 in January, was a second-round pick in 2007, and the “book” on Moller hasn’t changed much since then. He’s still revered for his attitude and tenacity, but questions remain about his strength and his ability to score enough to justify a top-six role. Moller will get the opportunity to prove himself now, as part of the Kings’ playoff push, a situation he immediately addressed with a smile after today’s practice…
MOLLER: “No pressure, right? It’s fun, for sure, playing with two great players. Obviously I’ll try to bring my `A’ game. My compete level has got to be high and I have to do all the things right, starting in our own end, all the way down to their end.”
Question: You’ve been here so often that there’s not much of an adjustment period, right?
MOLLER: “I’m pretty familiar with all the guys around here, the trainers and the coaching staff and everybody. It’s a great organization, I think, and it’s a big push now, with the last nine games that are left, so I just have to make sure I play real well.”
Question: What did you take with you, after your last stint here, when you went back to Manchester?
MOLLER: “Just talking to the coach, after they sent me down, it was just to try to be an offensive threat every time I have the puck on my stick. I really, really tried to work on that, to be a good offensive player but not lack that defensive responsibility. I think the team has been doing really well down in Manchester. I think they’re in first place. It’s been tight, and Portland has a couple games in hand over us, because we played so many games already. So I think we’ve been playing pretty well down in Manchester. It’s been fun.”
Question: Do you see this as an opportunity to prove yourself?
MOLLER: “Absolutely. It’s a very important time of the year for this hockey club. To be able to play with two great players like this, right now, we’ll see how it goes. It’s a great opportunity to prove myself to management here and move forward from there. It will be fun, for sure.”
Terry Murray also intends to put Moller on the power-play unit. Moller has 23 goals and 27 assists in 50 games with the AHL’s Manchester Monarchs this season.
MURRAY: “He’s been here a few times, and he’s gone back down to Manchester every time. One thing about Oscar, his attitude is fantastic. He’s got a great personality. He has worked very hard on his game in Manchester and he’s gotten better. You can see his jump, his strength on the puck, awareness on the ice. His game has improved. So he will fit on the right side tomorrow, with Kopitar and Penner, and he will have a good opportunity to give us a look at his game.”
Question: You’re not going to replace Justin Williams, obviously, but in terms of style of play, is Moller about as close as you can get?
MURRAY: “It probably is. Loktionov’s got a game that’s pretty close to what Williams is, also, but with him being injured and Oscar being a right winger, yeah. I don’t see Manchester. I don’t know how some other guys are playing down there, but having had Oscar here in the past, he’s a puck-skill player, he can fit on different lines, his awareness to the responsibilities in the system are right on, every time. We’re not going to replace Williams. There’s going to be a difference. You’re not going to miss all of Justin Williams, but what the difference is, I’m not sure yet.”
Question: Do you see this as an opportunity for Oscar to prove himself at the NHL level?
MURRAY: “This is a great opportunity for Oscar, and I think he’s very aware of it. We’re coming down to the final games of the season, a critical time, a big push every night. You’ve got to play with a playoff attitude, and he’s going to be on a top line with lots of responsibilities to play 5-on-5 and also get on the special teams. So his time is now. It’s three years in, and this is a time when we will be watching him very closely, as an organization.”