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by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
Jarret Stoll on his arthritis: "There's some good days and there's some bad days."

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Two-thirds of the way through their longest road trip of the season, the Kings faced their toughest opponent to date: the flu.

Four players – Alexander Frolov, Teddy Purcell, Brad Richardson and Justin Williams – have fallen ill, to various degrees, over the past couple days.

This morning, Kings coach Terry Murray was unsure how many players would be unavailable for tonight’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, so the Kings called up forward Oscar Moller from Manchester of the American Hockey League as an insurance policy, if nothing else.

Moller had three goals in five games for Manchester. Last season with the Kings, Moller had seven goals and eight assists in 40 games, but he didn’t make the Kings out of training camp this fall and was assigned to Manchester.

The illness left Murray in a difficult spot, not knowing until hours before the game – or maybe less – which players will be available and what lines to put together for the game.

"That’s maybe a good thing," Murray joked. "Put it together right as we go out for the warmups."

The Kings held an optional morning skate at Nationwide Arena. Twelve skaters and both goalies participated.

Jarret Stoll missed the early part of training camp after being diagnosed with arthritis, most notably in his right wrist.

Stoll returned in the middle part of training camp and has maintained regular minutes as the Kings’ No. 2 center, but said he is still dealing with arthritis issues, and expects to for quite some time to come.

"It’s OK, it’s fine. There’s some good days and there’s some bad days," Stoll said. "There are some rough mornings, waking up sometimes, but it loosens up during the day and I just have to keep an eye on it and monitor it. I’m on the medication and I probably will be all year, just to make sure I can control it a little bit. There’s some tightness. The swelling has gone down, obviously. It’s fine to play. I’ve just got to watch it carefully."

The Columbus Blue Jackets are the NHL’s best penalty-killing team, as they have killed 18 of 19 opponents’ power plays entering tonight. Factor in that they have also scored a shorthanded goal, and Columbus is practically perfect on the penalty kill.

That will likely present a significant challenge for the Kings, who started the season with seven power-play goals in their first five games but are 1 for 12 with the man advantage in their last two games.

"They are very aggressive," Murray said of the Blue Jackets. "They are really good through the middle of the ice. They get the angles and they push you into the places you want you to go as you come onto their side of the red line. They pressure any pucks on the boards, any fumbled pucks, any bad passes. That’s a green light for that guy, and all four guys are following it up."

Murray and Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock are well acquainted. Murray was an assistant coach under Hitchcock in the 2003-04 and 2005-06 seasons, and eight games into the 2006-07 season before Hitchcock got fired.

Before the game, Hitchcock had kind words for the Kings.

"They’re a very organized team, and they’re very structurally sound," Hitchcock said. "I know Terry (Murray) well, and they play exactly the same way we do. So, to me, this is just a complete mirror image of each other. They play the same system the same way, with the same style.

"They have a really big hockey club, especially through the middle of the ice. They’ve got good structure on all their lines and they’re going to be a real force all year."

Then again, perhaps Hitchcock spoke with some confidence, since the Blue Jackets entered the game with a 5-2-1 record against the Kings in their previous eight meetings.
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