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Sturm's Wait Is Over

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
DENVER -- Marco Sturm had to wait 233 days to return to the NHL, but he will get the chance tonight when the Kings play the Colorado Avalanche.


Sturm, who severely injured his knee in a May 1 playoff game, while a member of the Boston Bruins, has recovered from offseason surgery and will return to the lineup tonight, 10 days after the Kings acquired him from the Bruins for ``future considerations.''

The Kings intend, in fairly short order, to have Sturm play a first-line left-wing role alongside Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown, but tonight Sturm is expected to start out on the fourth line, with center Trevor Lewis and right winger Alexei Ponikarovsky.

``I just want to get him started,'' Kings coach Terry Murray said after Tuesday's optional morning skate, in which Sturm participated. ``Get him onto a line where he's going to play against, hopefully, their third or fourth line, and not put a lot of big responsibility on his shoulders in that first game.

``Get his feet under himself, get skating, get the feel of the game again and just start to get, physically and mentally, back into it.''

When healthy, the 32-year-old Sturm has proven to be a consistent 20-plus goal scorer and has been known as one of the fastest skaters in the NHL.

Several times over the past week, Murray has likened Sturm's situation to that of Pavel Bure, whom Murray coached in Florida when Bure returned from ACL surgery in 1999.

``I think it's the same scenario I had with Pavel Bure in Florida,'' Murray said. ``It was, `I don't have a lot of high expectations in this (first) game.
Let's just get started.' I said, `I'll give you six minutes of ice time here tomorrow night.' It was right on the second, six minutes. But that's what I would do with Marco now, after talking with him for several days, several different times.

``I think it's just a matter of getting in, getting some shifts in and getting back into the game and getting a little flow in there, so that you're preparing yourself to move up.''

LOOKING LIKE HIMSELF AGAIN

After a 15-game period in late October and November, in which he totaled only one point in 15 games, Wayne Simmonds seems to have found his offense again.
Moreover, while the points are nice, Murray is pleased with Simmonds' overall two-way play.

Simmonds' play seems to have been elevated all the more by the addition of rookie winger Kyle Clifford to his line, with veteran center Michal Handzus.

``His game is tremendous right now,'' Murray said of Simmonds. ``He's playing with confidence, he's playing with the right kind of mentality, with a north, hard, gritty, determined attitude. He's taking pucks to the net. There is, I think, a great chemistry starting to develop with Clifford on the left side and Handzus in the middle.

``They enjoy playing with each other and they're having a lot of fun, and I'm real excited to see that Simmer is getting the job done the way he has in the past.''

A LOT OF OFFENSE

There won't be any secrets tonight when the Kings face the Avalanche.

The Kings know exactly what they will be getting. The Avalanche are hot, having won six consecutive games, and they're the highest-scoring team in the Western Conference. Colorado has totaled 27 goals during its six-game winning streak.

Matt Duchene, a second-year forward who turns 20 next month, leads the way with
13 goals and 21 assists in 33 games, while 24-year-old Paul Stastny has 13 goals and 19 assists in 32 games. Colorado is 6-for-17 on the power play in its last six games.

``It doesn't surprise me,'' Murray said. ``That's what we saw a lot last year, too, was the real attack attitude. They want to get a play to the net right off the rush, and they have some skill players. The young kids down the middle there, with Duchene in particular, they're dynamic players. They have the speed, quickness to do some things in the offensive zone, and they're making it happen for their team. A lot of pucks going to the net, a lot of hard driving to the net and getting those hard, ugly goals.

``They're on a roll. They've won six games in a row and when you get that kind of momentum behind you, that's when you start to get the kind of goals like we saw us score against Nashville the other day. You just pop it up over the goalie's head, and they're just finding a way to go in. When you get on that kind of a roll, it's nice. We need to get to that look. We'd love to get to a six-, seven-, eight-, nine-game winning streak, put some solid points on the board with confidence in our play.''

MONARCHS IN FIRST PLACE

The Manchester Monarchs, the Kings' AHL affiliate, host the newly-renamed Connecticut Whale tonight, and the Monarchs will look to build on their three-game winning steak.

The Monarchs, who are 20-11-1-1 overall and in first place in the Atlantic Division, are riding the hot hand of 20-year-old goalie Martin Jones, who has allowed a total of 13 goals in his last 10 games. Overall this season, Jones ranks second in the AHL in goals-against average (1.60) and save percentage (.950).

Jones has started to get the majority of the starts over Jeff Zatkoff, who was Jonathan Bernier's backup last season. Zatkoff has a 3.10 GAA and a .897 save percentage.

Bud Holloway and Andrei Loktionov are tied for the team high with 23 points.
Justin Azevedo has 10 goals and Loktionov has 18 assists, while Viatcheslav Voynov leads all Monarchs defensemen in scoring with 22 points.

HAPPY TO HAVE FEHR

On Saturday, the NHL Players' Association voted to hire Donald Fehr as its executive director. Fehr's main task will be to navigate the next collective-bargaining negotiations for the players, with the current CBA set to expire after the 2011-12 season.

Fehr is best known as the former head of the Major League Baseball players'
union, and in the early part of this season, Fehr did a tour of NHL cities and met with players. Peter Harrold, one of the Kings' union representatives, said Fehr impressed the team.

``I think there was a total consensus,'' Harrold said. ``Obviously his reputation speaks for itself, but he came in and talked to us. All of us realized that he's a pretty intelligent guy. He's got plans. He's up to speed on everything having to do with the union and the CBA, and we think he's the right guy to have at the top.''
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