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Sturm Getting Close

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
DENVER -- After eight days full of cold and gloomy weather, the Kings finally found sunshine and mild temperatures in, all of places, Colorado in late December.

They also might find their most recent addition, Marco Sturm, on the ice.

Coach Terry Murray indicated after Monday's practice that Sturm, acquired on Dec. 11 from Boston, is likely to be in the lineup when the Kings play the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night. Sturm has not played this season while recovering from knee surgery.

Sturm has skated with the Kings in practice for five days and, if he plays, is likely to start out as a fourth-line left winger. Murray projects that Sturm eventually will play on the first line with Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown, once he gets into normal game shape.

After Monday's practice, Sturm said he felt good but seemed inclined to wait until after Tuesday's morning skate to make the call as to whether he will play against Colorado.

``I've got to talk to (Murray) and see what his plans are,'' Sturm said.

Murray has made his plans pretty clear. He would like to see Sturm in the lineup, if Sturm feels he is ready to play, and Murray said Sturm gave him that indication today.

``He did tell me, on the ice, that he's feeling good,'' Murray said, ``and that waiting another week, or two weeks, is not going to make any difference. I said, waiting one day or two days is not going to make a difference. It's just a decision you have to make as a player, when you're coming back from an injury, to convince yourself to step up and get yourself going.

``He kind of said he was, in a roundabout way, that he was ready to get in and get going.''

Sturm, 32, is in his 13th NHL season and has 234 goals and 232 assists in 855 career NHL games. He has scored at least 20 goals in each of his last seven full seasons.

In preparation for Sturm's return to NHL action, the Kings assigned forward Oscar Moller to Manchester of the AHL late Sunday night, just before the start of the NHL-mandated eight-day holiday roster freeze.


The Kings shuffled their lines a bit again Monday, as Brad Richardson skated on the first line with Kopitar and Brown, who moved back to his natural position of right wing.

That meant a reunion of the second line of center Jarret Stoll and Justin Williams. Starting with the third game of the season, that line was together for
21 games, and in those games the three players combined for 22 goals and 30 assists.

The line was broken up in late November after a handful of consecutive games without much production, but Murray is looking toward an eventual Sturm-Kopitar-Brown first line and wants to try to get the Stoll line going again right now.

``The line, as we know, with Stoll and Smyth and Willy, was playing so well for us at the start of the year,'' Murray said. ``I made a change for reasons. Right now, I feel that with players, Marco, coming back into the lineup, and we've got Richie back in, that I can make that change. Hopefully the chemistry is right back there again.

``I thought Willy was a big part of that iine, when they were playing well. He's a puck-possession player who makes a lot of plays in the offensive zone, so I'm hoping, and i feel, that going back to that line, they should not miss anything.
He will do his stuff, the line will start to click again, and now it gives me an opportunity to get Brownie back on the right side, to get prepared for Marco Sturm when he gets some games under his belt.''


In terms of penalty minutes per game, the Kings are average. They rank 16th in the league in fewest minutes, with an average of 13.3 per game. But, of late, penalties involving too many men on the ice have been a troubling trend for Murray.

Five times in the last 10 games, the Kings have been called for having too many men on the ice. It has happened twice on this road trip, Thursday at St. Louis and Saturday at Chicago.

``I'm looking at it league-wide, and it's up around the league,'' Murray said.
``You know what, though? A couple games ago, we had a too many men on the ice.
I've watched this thing over and over, and our man, his toes are against the dasher boards. It's the five-foot rule. It was Williams, and his skates were actually touching the boards. The gate is open and he's coming off, and it's a call. That was at home. Last night, we deserved it. Last night, we had Martinez coming to the bench, and he got to the bench and then the play came, on a bit of a transition, and he backed away and his man came on.

``It's an area that's got to get cleaned up. Part of it, I think, is that the young guys, in the American Hockey League you can probably get away with 15 feet, and never get called. You've got one referee, although I know the linesman can make the call. It has happened to the younger guys several times for us.''
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