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Stoll to Return Tonight

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
Jarret Stoll is set to return tonight after missing the last two games.

For the first time in two weeks, the Kings got some good news on the injury front Saturday morning.

Jarret Stoll, who missed the previous two games with a groin strain, will return to the lineup tonight when the Kings host the Chicago Blackhawks. Stoll will center wingers Teddy Purcell and Dustin Brown.

"I feel great," Stoll said. "The last four or five days were big, I think. The ache was there last week, and I just felt it slowly over the past couple weeks, so it's probably a good think that I sat out a week."

The run of injuries started on Nov. 14, when Rob Scuderi suffered a lower-body injury. Two days later, Ryan Smyth suffered an upper-body injury. Five days after that, Stoll went out and four days after that, Andrei Loktionov suffered a dislocated shoulder in his NHL debut. That's four injuries in 12 days.

Scuderi is still listed as day to day but is expected to miss his sixth consecutive game.

"Speaking with the medical staff here this morning, he's not quite ready to go, but he is day to day and getting there, getting very close," Kings coach Terry Murray said of Scuderi.

Stoll's return should help the Kings in the faceoff circle, an area of much distress recently. The Kings finished fourth in the NHL last season with a 52 faceoff percentage, but this season they have fallen to 25th (47.9 percent). The Kings lost nine consecutive faceoffs at the start of Thursday's game.


In other injury news, Murray said that Smyth will skate on Monday for the first time since his injury.

"He feels good," Murray said. "He's walking around much more relaxed and without any pain. I think, with him, you've got to be careful not to let him do too much and get into a situation where he might injure himself again. But he's going to get on the ice and start to do stuff.

"But off the ice, in the last little while, he has been riding the bike. He's hungry to keep himself going so that, when he gets the green light to get going, he's going to step in and not miss a step."

Based on the initial four-week estimate, Smyth might be able to return for the Kings' three-game trip through Canada, which starts on Dec. 14. After that trip, the Kings have an eight-day break. Murray said Smyth would not return ahead of schedule.

Purcell, who spent two games as the Kings' first-line left wing, has been moved down to the second line and replaced by Alexander Frolov, who was Smyth's initial replacement on the first line.

In two games with the first line, Purcell did not record a point.

"I wanted to give Teddy the opportunity to play there," Murray said, "because I liked what I was seeing in the practices. He had good jump, and whenever I see that kind of energy, normally there is some offensive result. He had some opportunities, as we know, but statistically, at the end of the day there was nothing there to look at. That's why I'm making the change."

In the four games without Smyth, the top line -- including Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams -- has generated one goal, from Frolov in last Saturday's loss to Calgary.

"It's just a matter of working hard," Kopitar said. "We're not getting great chances, but we're getting some chances. It's still frustrating, but at least we're doing something. I have about four shots per game, but it's just a matter of keeping it simple. Once we break through, it will just go up from there."

Jack Johnson's ice time had dipped a bit in November, but Johnson played 26 minutes, 57 seconds on Wednesday in Edmonton. Then, the next night, he played a season-high 28:21 at Vancouver.

Murray described the bump in ice time as, quite simply, an indication of his satisfaction with Johnson.

"He's getting more minutes because he earns it," Murray said. "He has played very well. He has played hard. He has competed really well in this last road trip, and we like that. That's our way of saying, `Keep with it. Stay with it. Be physical. Play with the checking game as the priority.'

"If he keeps playing like that, we're going to see good things happen in his game as we keep moving forward with it. That has to be the mindset to build on, the checking part of the game. The offense, he's got that ability already, so he has earned the right to play."

Overall this season, Johnson is second on the Kings in average ice time (23:21), an average of 19 seconds per game behind Drew Doughty.
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