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by Staff Writer / Los Angeles Kings
Oscar Moller, who suffered a shoulder injury at the World Junior tournament, had a full-contact practice today and could be close to returning to the Kings lineup.
In preparation for tomorrow’s game against the Ottawa Senators, this morning’s Bell Centre practice was a more physically involved affair than yesterday’s.

The team hit the ice at 10:30 a.m., running through most of the same drills as they did in Brossard, but with the added element of some light body work during the scrimmaging that took up most of the second half of the Kings on-ice time.

As they did yesterday, the players worked on a few different tasks before leaving the ice. Some were sharpening goaltenders at one end, others practiced point shots and a third group did stops and starts in the center zone.

Oscar Moller, finally out of the yellow sweater, wore red and seemed quite comfortable with the physical intensity of the team’s workout this morning, his first contact outing since suffering a shoulder injury while representing Sweden at the World Junior Championships in December.

One of the last to leave the ice, Moller stayed behind to take a few extra shots on net under the watchful eye of assistant coach Jamie Kompon. With Moller’s impending return to action, Peter Harrold was back in a defensemen’s black practice jersey as he will resume blue line duty in the near future.

With the exception of Moller’s return in red, the forward lines remained unchanged, the team electing to keep the trios intact after capturing four of their last five outings.

Veteran defenseman Denis Gauthier was suspended for five games for his hit that rocked Habs defenseman Josh Gorges in Saturday’s game. The hearing was held this morning but no decision had come down by the time coach, Terry Murray spoke after practice.

See the hit

“I was not part of the conference call but I have watched it again. I know Denis Gauthier real well, both here and from the Philadelphia organization. His game is to be a hard defenseman to play against, to finish checks,” he said.

“When I looked at it, there’s no intent (to injure) there. I want him to step up and play hard along the boards. There’s such a fine line when the offensive player is coming in with the puck,” Murray continued. “I’ve looked at the play twice and he did not lead with his elbow. It was real impact hit and it’s up to somebody else to decide where it goes from here but if that part of the game is taken away from him it’ll be very difficult for him to be a player in the league because that’s been the way he’s been throughout his whole career.”

The Kings recalled defenseman Davis Drewiske on Monday afternoon for depth on the blueline with Gauthier out.

Assistant coach Mark Hardy is presently in his fourth tenure with the Kings. He manned the blue line from 1979-80 to 1987-88 he returned to Los Angeles late in 1992-93, becoming a valued veteran presence on a team that made it to the Stanley Cup finals and appeared in his last 16 NHL games as a King the next season.

An assistant coach from 1999-2000 through 2005-06, he spent two years in Chicago, returning to a very different team.

“I think this is more of a building procedure than the last time I was here. We have a young core that’s growing together and it’s a lot of fun on the teaching end of it,” he said. “I think we have some young players who are set. We have some good young defensemen who are still in junior. Obviously we’re waiting for Thomas Hickey, who played on Team Canada (at the World junior Championship). I know there’s nothing but upside to this organization and that’s where we’re headed.”

NHL squads, with the exception of teams playing in the US northeast, rarely travel by bus between games anymore. Kings were Ottawa bound after practice, covering the 90-mile trip in a luxury coach.

Defenseman Drew Doughty, who went to the 2008 Draft in Ottawa a member of the Guelph Storm with junior eligibility remaining and came away a King, recalled that bus travel could sometimes be uncomfortable if you weren’t feeling 100%.

“I remember one time I hurt my leg in a game up in the Soo,” he said. “I couldn’t sleep at all so I was up all night, feeling every bounce. We didn’t get home until about 4 a.m.”

The Kings are 4-2-1 in their last seven road games, dating back to Dec. 23 in Columbus.  During that span Los Angeles has out-scored its opponent 24-17.

The Centennial Plaza, a courtyard outside the rink that contains statues of four Habs immortals and is paved with bricks purchased by Canadiens fans, each sporting an individual message.

A couple from Barrie, Ontario, made 350-mile the trek to Montreal, ending their solemn journey by scattering the ashes of a family member and lifelong Canadiens fan on his commemorative brick in.

Terry Murray will face a brand-new opposite in Ottawa tomorrow evening. His brother, Ottawa GM Bryan Murray, announced that he had relieved his first-year coach, Craig Hartsburg, elevating Binghamton bench boss, Cory Clouston to take the reins of the struggling Senators for the balance of the season.

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