With Jarret Stoll out of the lineup for Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals, attention shifted to potential lineup changes and the how the absence of a veteran, two-way center would affect the club.
As expected, Darryl Sutter indicated that Brad Richardson would re-enter the lineup. Richardson has appeared in one playoff game thus far, having logged 14:02 of ice time in the 2-1 overtime loss to St. Louis in the opening game of the first round.
“Playoff time’s big, and you want to play your best, so tomorrow if I’m in, then I’m going to bring the best game I can,” Richardson said after the team’s practice on Wednesday.
Because of Richardson’s versatility up and down the lineup at wing and at center, he’s comfortable in any role he inherits.
“He plays with Penns and Lewie, so they’re kind of a checking line. They have a lot of speed and a lot of straight lines, so that would probably be my main focus – using speed and trying to [play] my best,” he said.
Stoll’s absence will affect faceoffs and the penalty kill, two areas of San Jose’s strength. The Sharks were a top-two faceoff team for the fifth consecutive year and rank second amongst active playoff teams with a 25.9% power play rate. The Kings’ penalty kill was a perfect 3-for-3 in Tuesday’s win.
During the regular season, Stoll registered more time on ice during the penalty kill than any other forward.
“Stolly…is clearly one of our top penalty killers. Him and Lewie always start cause of draws and…it’s an opportunity for someone else to step into a role on the PK,” Dustin Brown said. “I mean, we’re going to have to find a way to get the job done regardless of personnel. Again, it’s an opportunity for someone to step into a PK role. We pretty much had the six of seven guys on the same PK all year. I’m sure that one of those guys that kind of gets a shot once in a while will just step right in. We all know what we’re doing. It’s just a matter of executing.”
Colin Fraser has factored into the penalty kill for parts of the last two years and could see an expanded role in place of Stoll. He skated with Justin Williams during a third period San Jose power play. Fraser averaged 36 seconds of penalty killing time on ice per game, while Williams, who saw more time on the penalty kill as the season progressed, averaged 18 seconds per game on the penalty kill.
“Kind of my whole life I’ve kind of been more of a defensive-minded player,” Fraser said. I don’t necessarily kill every game, but when somebody goes down I get to fill the void, and I think it’s just about having good positioning and being smart. Less is more sometimes. Obviously it’s their top players, and if you give them time and space they’re going to make plays, so it’s being quick, being smart and having a good stick.”
Several players spoke of the new challenges presented by injuries to Stoll and Kyle Clifford – as well as to Matt Greene, who appeared in five games in 2013 and none since April 24. Last season, Los Angeles used the same six defensemen throughout the playoffs and weathered a Clifford injury in Game 1 of the Vancouver series during a Stanley Cup run marked by its continuity.
“That goes a long way in being successful. I think last year…no injuries and the amount of rest we got was huge for us,” Brown said. “But, you know, every year’s different. We’ve got to find ways to deal with it. Again, our team – part of our strength is our depth, and when a situation like this happens, that’s when it comes into play, big time.”
Against a team with high-caliber offensive weapons such as San Jose, the lineup alteerations will pose an adjustment in a series the Kings lead one game to none.
“That’s why we have a lot of guys, right? I mean, we have extra guys for a reason,” Fraser said. “We’ve got good players that have been sitting out all year. You never want to see Stolly go down. He’s a big piece to our puzzle. He’s a big player. He’s a veteran guy that’s played a lot of playoff games. Obviously he’s a big key to our team, but with that being said, you’ve got to move forward, too. Other guys are going to have to step up and fill the void.”