Notes from Thursday’s morning skate
STOLL OUT, RICHARDSON IN
With the injury to Jarret Stoll and a potential suspension that will make Raffi Torres unavailable for Game 2, both teams made lineup adjustments in advance of Thursday night’s game at Staples Center.
Brad Richardson will replace Stoll as a center on Los Angeles’ third line between Dustin Penner and Trevor Lewis. Richardson, now in his fifth season with the Kings, last played in Game 1 of the St. Louis series. A natural center, he possesses attributes that should allow him to find chemistry alongside a pair of players that have led the Kings’ forechecking and pressure efforts.
“Obviously we’re going to miss Stolly, but Richie’s a great player, and he’s kind of a little prick to play against, I think,” Lewis said. “He’s great on the forecheck and he’s got a lot of speed, and he can make plays.”
Lewis had been paired with Stoll on Los Angeles’ top penalty killing unit, and while he didn’t know who he’d be killing penalties with in Game 2, he spoke of players being able to take advantage of the opportunity presented.
“It’s a chance for guys to step up who kill but don’t kill as much. Our system’s the same, so it’s just about communication and sticking to the details,” he said.
Though the Kings were a perfect 3-for-3 on the kill, Lewis was impressed by the pace at which the Sharks’ power play operated.
“They moved the puck quick,” Lewis said. “They’ve got guys that can make plays and shoot the puck. They’re always moving, so you’ve just got to have your head on a swivel and kind of stick to the gameplan.”
In the absence of Torres, San Jose is expected to shift Joe Pavelski onto the Marleau-Couture line as the right wing while moving Scott Gomez up to the role of third line center and inserting Tim Kennedy between Andrew Desjardins and Bracken Kearns.
Tyler Toffoli has appeared comfortable in his first three games of Stanley Cup Playoffs experience, and his usage increased in Game 1 when he had his number called for a pair of late shifts as Los Angeles fended off increased San Jose pressure.
Darryl Sutter was asked about his usage of Toffoli, and whether the AHL’s rookie of the year has earned the right to be used in late, tight situations.
“Why not?” Sutter responded. “He’s probably next to Lewie as the best winger we have on boards in recognizing and feeling pressure. So why not?”
After seeing minutes primarily alongside Rob Scuderi since rejoining the Kings’ lineup, Alec Martinez was moved onto a pairing with Jake Muzzin midway through Tuesday’s Game 1.
Both players are left defensemen, and there was an adjustment period for Martinez, who had only sporadically appeared on the right side of a defensive pairing with L.A.
“I played it here and there,” Martinez said. “I think I played four or five games with Mitchie (Willie Mitchell) last year on the right side. I don’t know. I never really played it in college. As you grow up, you play both sides, and there are times where you have to play both sides, and you work on both sides. You take reps that way. I don’t know. I felt good last game. There’s a few things that you have to adjust. But the bottom line is you’re a hockey player. You should be able to play both sides.”
Sutter indicated that the defensive alignments are continually adjusted due to the time and place in a game, and that Martinez’s versatility is an asset.
“He can play both sides. We really don’t have pairs. It’s more of our situation reads,” he said. “It’s not easy switching sides. There’s not many guys – elite guys in the league [that can do it.] Robbie (Rob Scuderi) did it in Pittsburgh because he played with Hal Gill. So he moved over to that side. There’s a handful of guys in the league that can do it better on their off sides, one being Brad Stuart.”
There were some minor alterations Martinez made in his tendencies with the switch.
“Just little things, like in the neutral zone maybe you want to get it a little deeper, allow yourself a little more time,” he said. “Just got to throw maybe a few extra head checks in there in the neutral zone, just to make sure there isn’t a guy coming down the wall, or if you’re receiving the puck in the corner on a breakout you can kind of get blindsided there, so you want to give a good head check, keep your head on a swivel. But I don’t know – just taking the reps in practice honestly helps the best.”
The Sharks possess a variety of offensive weapons that make match-ups difficult, and like the Kings, there are a pair of distinctive looks between the top two lines.
On Thursday, Drew Doughty highlighted the differences between the Galiardi – Thornton – Burns line and the Marleau – Couture line that opened the series with Raffi Torres and will feature Joe Pavelski on the right wing in Game 2.
“Both lines are the two skill lines, and that’s obvious,” Doughty said. “But for the Thornton line, they like to do certain things in the offensive zone that the Couture line doesn’t do. The Couture line kind of tries to find guys in the slot, get open, and Thornton’s line tries to find the back of the net and make plays from behind the net to the front. So they both kind of play differently in the offensive zone, but on the rush they’re the same. They’re both two lines that we have to pay a lot of special attention to, and we have to shut them both down if we want to win.”