Sharks could exploit Stoll's absence in several areas
LOS ANGELES -- Darryl Sutter still had his skates on when he walked into his press conference following the morning skate Thursday, as if he was ready to jump over the boards.
It only seems like the Los Angeles Kings would insert their coach into the lineup because this is the first real test of their depth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. L.A. will not have center Jarret Stoll for Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinal series against the San Jose Sharks on Thursday (10 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS) after Stoll was knocked out of Game 1 by an illegal hit from Raffi Torres.
Stoll is a significant all-round player for the Kings, specifically in the faceoff circle and on the penalty-killing unit. Without him in the third period of Game 1, the Kings lost 14 of 21 faceoffs.
Can San Jose exploit that through a full game?
"I hope so," San Jose coach Todd McLellan said. "Jarret is a hell of a faceoff guy. He takes a lot of the important ones. But as I said earlier, [Anze] Kopitar and [Mike] Richards have done a very good job (for the Kings) in the series, as well. We have relied over the years on being a strong faceoff team and being able to have puck possession off of that. We hope that can work in our favor. But it's about getting it done. It's about executing it."
McLellan moved veteran Scott Gomez to the third line as he tried to counter the Kings' depth down the middle with Kopitar and Richards. Jeff Carter plays on the wing but is a natural center and takes a handful of faceoffs every game.
"I don't think people realize how important faceoffs are in the playoffs," Gomez said. "Stoll … is one of the best in the League. He's a pain in the [rear end] to go against. But they're well-coached over there. They'll be in the same situation as us. You got to step up. If anything, your wingers definitely [have] to help out more."
Stoll is part of a penalty-killing unit that helped nullify three San Jose power plays in Game 1. The Sharks took six shots on those power plays and watched goalie Jonathan Quick smother most of them, not leaving any nibbles around the net. This takes away a considerable part of the Sharks' attack, given they scored almost half of their goals on the power play against the Vancouver Canucks in the quarterfinals (seven of 15).
Stoll also plays on the power play, sometimes at the point. Anything else? Well, he's also a veteran presence Rob Scuderi said always is talking with his teammates on how to handle the next play or situation.
"He's not a top-two line guy for us, but he's got a lot of fingerprints all over the game," Scuderi said. "He takes faceoffs. He does the penalty kill. He's on the power play. Key faceoffs, maybe at the end of the game, whether we needed a goal or we don't. He does all those things."
"[Richardson] has to play well for us because it's not easy,” Sutter said. "You look at San Jose's four centermen, if they use Joe and Logan and Pavelski and Gomez as the four centermen. You've got to match up. That is the matchup in the series. That means that Brad has to play well against somebody, whoever it is. You get a little advantage at home, but you don't after this."
Sutter played his top defense pairing of Drew Doughty and Robyn Regehr against Thornton's line in Game 1, and the trio mostly was kept quiet, with six shots on goal. Of course, the Sharks all were kept quiet in a 2-0 loss, even Couture's line.
Doughty said he does notice one difference.
"For the Thornton line, they like to do certain things in the offensive zone that the Couture line doesn't do," Doughty said. "The Couture line kind of tries to find guys in the slot, get open. Thornton's line tries to find the back of the net and make plays from the net to the front. They both kind of play differently in the offensive zone, but on the rush they're the same."
Doughty and Scuderi said they didn't like how the Kings backed off after taking a 2-0 lead, something they're not accustomed to in the postseason. They needed Quick to be sharp in the first 10 minutes, and were outshot 16-4 in the third period, although Quick saw a lot of those cleanly.
That was a point of emphasis on the off day. The Kings have scored 14 goals in seven Stanley Cup Playoff games but have a 5-2 record. It helps to allow 10 goals in that span, but they know this could catch up to them. San Jose brings considerably more firepower than the St. Louis Blues, the Kings' first-round foes.
"We would come back in our own zone and we'd play that tight little box, protecting our home plate," Doughty said of sitting back. "We can't be doing that. We still need to make plays. We still need to be going for it. We still need to get that one more goal to give us a little extra breathing room. We weren't happy with that, but I think it's something we definitely have to learn from because they were definitely all over us in the third."
Scuderi said, "Hopefully we can play a more complete 60 minutes [in Game 2]. That would be a positive step for us."