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Two rookies get a chance to impress

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Will an infusion of new blood bring a spark to the Kings’ offense?

The Kings got some bad news Friday, when they had to place veteran center Jarret Stoll on the injured-reserve list with what Stoll described as an injury to his abductor muscle. The Kings also assigned rookie defenseman Slava Voynov to Manchester of the American Hockey League.

To replace them, the Kings called up two young wingers whom they hope will make an impact. Dwight King and Jordan Nolan, both 22 years old, have been two of Manchester’s most-impressive forwards this season, and both are expected to play tomorrow when the Kings face the New York Islanders.

King, a fourth-round draft pick in 2007 played six games for the Kings last season, and had totaled 11 goals and 18 assists in 50 games with Manchester this season. Nolan, a sixth-round pick in 2009, has nine goals and 13 assists in 40 games. Nolan, the son of former NHL coach Ted Nolan, will make his NHL debut tomorrow, playing right wing on a line with King and center Mike Richards.

``We’ll just get some big kids who can skate and play with energy, and hopefully have the identity that we’re looking for,’’ coach Darryl Sutter said after Friday’s practice. ``We’ve got to get more scoring out of guys. This isn’t about `wait and see.’ This is about now. You can be patient and teach and give them confidence, but they’ve got to perform too. That’s part of the deal.

``These kids are big kids that can skate. They’ve had the same knack for offense, historically if you look at it, that is the same as the group here, so why not?’’

The Kings are the lowest-scoring team in the NHL this season. Neither King nor Nolan is regarded as a dynamic scorer -- both are 6-foot-3 and around 220 pounds -- but Kings management members have regularly praised the offensive development of both players.

King is a former 34-goal scorer in junior hockey, and Nolan is a physical presence -- he has 119 penalty minutes in 40 AHL games this season -- who is also improving his puck-handling ability.

``In the last year, I’ve been trying to find my game,’’ Nolan said. ``The coach down there, Mark Morris, he’s kind of brought me along nice. I’m just trying to keep things simple. I play the penalty kill down there, play the power play, and just try to bring a physical presence. I’ll stand up for a teammate and score the odd goal. I just try to work my hardest and keep things simple for the team.’’

King was one of the pleasant surprises of training camp last September, and was one of the final cuts.

``At first, turning pro was a little bit of an adjustment for myself,’’ King said, ``but over the last two-and-a-half seasons, I feel like I’ve made steps in my development. Last year I got a little tease of this league, so I went back to Manchester and just kind of worked on being competitive for a full game. That’s pretty much the biggest thing. Me keeping my feet moving and trying to win battles was my key opponent going into this season.’’


Stoll was placed on the injured-reserve list Friday, meaning he must miss at least one week, but Stoll said he was hopeful that he wouldn’t be sidelined beyond that. Stoll missed the final seven-plus minutes of last night’s game after he was slow to get up from a hit and injured a muscle near his hip.

``I don’t know if you’d call it a tweak or whatever,’’ Stoll said. ``It’s kind of a similar thing to what I did two or three years ago, with my abductor. I felt it in the second period and I knew it was weak. Then I took one more hit, on kind of a weird play. ... I was striding and I was kind of extending my one leg, and he hit me, right at kind of the perfect timing for that. I knew right away. If I tried to keep going on it, it would probably tear or rip or whatever. So, I don’t expect to be out too long. Just treat it, treat it, treat it, and hopefully be back soon.’’


Voynov was the odd man out in the Kings’ roster shuffle. The Kings had been carrying eight healthy defenseman, and Voynov had been a scratch from the previous three games, in favor of Alec Martinez.

Sutter, though, indicated that Voynov might return when the Kings are allowed to expand their roster after the Feb. 27 trade deadline.

``He’s just got to play,’’ Sutter said. ``He’s a good player. That’s what is disappointing. I know how he feels. He’s got to play. It’s a numbers thing. We needed the forwards, right? That’s what you do. Then, in the next three or four weeks, that changes because of the way the roster changes after the deadline, and the movement you can make. This is an opportunity for those kids to prove themselves.

``Slava is good. I’m not saying that because he’s 22. He’s a good player. He’s every bit as good as defensemen that are playing, and aren’t playing, in this league.’’


Trent Hunter felt a little unfamiliar Friday, sitting in the visitors’ locker room at the Nassau Coliseum. Hunter spent more than a decade as a winger in the New York Islanders’ system before the team traded him to New Jersey last summer.

Hunter, who was recovering from a torn MCL, had his contract bought out by the Devils shortly after the trade, and Hunter signed with the Kings in September after being invited to training camp as a non-roster player. Hunter, who played 459 regular-season games for the Islanders, said he had no hard feelings toward his former organization.

``It is a business,’’ Hunter said. ``It’s obviously tough, because I was here a long time, and especially last year, with not playing much. It was tough. When you’re hurt, you’re around the guys and around the team, but you’re not really. You’re kind of on the outside looking in. Last year was definitely a tough year for me, but like I said, it’s a business and everything happens for a reason.’’
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