|Despite being diagnosed with arthritis during training camp and battling a recurring groin injury, Jarret Stoll is on pace to better his career high in goals and points.
Bug bites. It was probably just bug bites, right?
That's what Jarret Stoll ( highlights) thought -- or hoped -- over the summer, when he couldn't otherwise explain the pain that had settled into his wrists, knees and other joints.
Stoll had recently spent some time up at a lake in Canada, and figured that he must be having some sort of reaction to something in nature that, literally, got under his skin.
"I didn't know what it was," Stoll said last week. "I thought it was a bug bite or some kind of spider bite, initially. There's a lot of bugs and mosquitoes, stuff like that, out there, so that's what I thought it was. It took about a week and a half of blood tests and urine samples, stuff like that, to figure out what it was."
The pain wasn’t going away and Stoll couldn't have been any more surprised when, after all the tests had been completed, the diagnosis came in: arthritis.
"I didn’t really expect it, to be honest," Stoll said.
And why would he? After all, Stoll had just turned 27, and was entering the peak years of his athletic career, but Stoll hasn’t let arthritis slow him this season, as he has been one of the Kings’ top centers during their rise to the top of the Western Conference.
In fact, arthritis hasn’t even been Stoll’s biggest injury concern. In Monday’s game against Vancouver, Stoll suffered a groin injury for the second time this season, and it’s unknown exactly how long he will be out of the lineup.
As they did when Stoll got hurt the first time, the Kings will miss his faceoff skills and his versatility, the fact that Stoll feels comfortable centering any wingers on the team, in any situation, even strength or special teams.
Stoll has 10 goals, 15 assists and a plus-9 rating in 32 games and, if he can stay healthy, seems on pace to challenge his career high of 22 goals (with Edmonton in 2005-06).
Stoll has been at his best of late. He recently had a stretch of six consecutive games in which he recorded at least one point, and had three goals and four assists. There’s little flash in Stoll’s game, but there’s a steadiness that is comforting to teammates.
"Nothing pretty," Stoll said of his game. "I'm just going to grind it out and work hard and my work ethic, I think, will always be there. That's one thing that I will always have.
"I wouldn't consider myself a skill guy at all, but I just try to work hard and make plays and capitalize on my scoring chances and be physical. I think a lot comes from me getting my feet going and being physical and trying to turn over pucks and get scoring chances."
Continue to Part II