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Kings Notebook (Jan. 3)

by Staff Writer / Los Angeles Kings
Jarret Stoll will return to the ice tomorrow at San Jose. Stoll has been sidelined with a groin strain.

The Kings took a step back toward health Sunday afternoon when it was determined that center Jarret Stoll will be able to play Monday at San Jose.

Stoll, out since Dec. 14 with a groin injury, missed seven games but has been strong in practice of late and is expected to be slotted back into the lineup as the fourth-line center, between left winger Raitis Ivanans and right winger Oscar Moller.

Coach Terry Murray said he wanted to ease Stoll back into the lineup but said Stoll would be a major contributor on the power-play and penalty-kill units. Stoll’s faceoff skills will also be a good addition to a team that has struggled in the circle of late.

Stoll previously had centered the Kings’ second line, but since Stoll has suffered two groin strains this season, Murray will take it slow. It doesn’t hurt that Michal Handzus and Brad Richardson have been centering strong lines in Stoll’s absence.

"I could easily make a change," Murray said. "It's not that I would be unhappy with anybody. I really like, actually, what's going on with Richardson's line, and Zeus' line has been good. But also, my philosophy with that is that once the player comes back, he's going to get put in his normal position. But this is a different circumstance.

"We want to bring him back into the game the right way. We have tomorrow, then a couple days of practice, then another game. I think that would give a good feel to him, as to how he comes out of it, and let him continue to build his strength back."

Stoll, who has 10 goals and 15 assists in 33 games this season, said he’s confident about his return to the lineup after a lengthy rehab process.

"We've been taking it a little bit further every day, and pushing it a little harder and harder every day," Stoll said. "I think I've been skating now for close to a week, so it feels good. I'm anxious to get back in the lineup and contribute and help the team win."

NOT QUITE YET

Randy Jones, who has been out of the lineup since a Dec. 16 collision with Edmonton’s Dustin Penner, made it through a second full-team practice without experiencing any of the headaches or dizziness that had been impacting him in the past couple weeks.

Jones has missed six games and is not scheduled to play Monday against the Sharks.

"We just have to make sure that he gets to a certain level of hard work in a practice," Murray said. "It's hard today, with the game tomorrow, but he really needs to get pushed hard and be competing hard in some drills, so that he can get to more game-like scenarios, and then get a read on himself."

Jones’ comeback had been slowed because he experienced headaches and dizziness while attempting to ride a stationary bike, but Jones said Sunday that he has been feeling better.

"Everything that the trainers and doctors were concerned about have subsided," Jones said. "I'm skating and doing a lot of activities and I'm feeling good. It's a good sign, and even in practices I'm feeling good, so it's a step in the right direction."

OVIE UNDER WRAPS

Washington’s Alexander Ovechkin had seven shots on goal in Saturday’s game, but that’s nothing new, since Ovechkin regularly has game highs in shots on goal.

The difference, in the Kings’ 2-1 victory over the Capitals, was the Kings’ ability to keep Ovechkin out of prime scoring areas and limit his quality chances. Drew Doughty and Rob Scuderi, in particular, did a strong job of defending Ovechkin, who was kept off Washington’s score sheet.

"Body positioning, especially at the end of the game," Murray said, referring to what his team did well against Ovechkin. "You go right to the final, goalie-out kind of scenario. The players that are out against him...he's on the left D, in his favorite shooting place, and the players who were out against him really had good gap, good awareness to him. You almost, in that kind of look, break away totally from your concept of that home-plate attitude. You have to get right out in front of him.

"Before the lockout, when I had a player like that, that you were defending, I'd tell our defending player to put the stick between his legs and stand there with him. Mario Lemieux, Pavel Bure, those guys who were always such a great threat. We had that kind of awareness to it last night, so I was very pleased overall."
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