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Stoll set to return for Kings in Game 3

by Rick Sadowski
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – Like Ian White, Jarret Stoll was forced to sit out Game 2 of the Western Conference quarterfinal playoff series between the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks, but for a much different reason.

Stoll, the Kings' second-line center, served a one-game suspension for his hit from behind against the Sharks defenseman in Game 1 at HP Pavilion in San Jose. White missed Thursday's game to recover from a head injury but practiced in San Jose on Monday and is expected to play Tuesday night in Game 3 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Stoll is eager to return to his regular spot between wingers Ryan Smyth and Justin Williams, and he was equally pleased after the Kings practiced Monday to learn that White is doing better.

"Is he? That's good to hear," Stoll said. "Like I said from the start, there wasn't any intent to go in and hurt the guy. I know him a little bit from playing against him in junior. I know he’s a good guy. It was what it was and I’m sorry it happened. I'm sorry I missed a game and I'm happy that our team came out and got the win. I would have liked to have been out there playing, but it's over now and I'm looking forward to Game 3."

Stoll won 13 of 20 faceoffs in Game 1, helped the Kings stifle what had been a potent Sharks' power play, and his line had a hand in both of his team's goals in the 3-2 overtime loss.

White assisted on Dany Heatley's goal 28 seconds into the opening game -- White's initial playoff game in six NHL seasons -- but he was finished for the night when Stoll slammed him into the boards with 25.2 seconds left in the first period.

"I texted him and we chatted a couple times," Stoll said. "He appreciated the text and reaching out to him. I wanted to make sure I did that, letting him know that I didn't mean to hurt him in any way."

As difficult as it was for Stoll to miss Game 2, it would have been unbearable had the Kings not cruised to a 4-0 win in what was a near-perfect performance.

"If we had come out of there losing that game, I would have felt even worse about it," he said. "Evening up the series for sure helped our confidence. Winning in that building helped our confidence. It was just a matter of putting together the game plan for the full game.

"There weren't any stretches where we had lapses or were inconsistent with our play. We stuck with it and kept going.  Everyone was jumping over the boards and having fun with it and doing what we needed to do."

Trevor Lewis did a creditable job while filling in for Stoll with Smyth and Williams on Saturday. He played 17 minutes, had three hits, two blocked shots and helped the Kings snuff out all five of the Sharks' power plays.

But Lewis just completed his first full NHL season and Stoll is an eight-year veteran with 32 games of playoff experience, which included a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals with Edmonton in 2006.

"(Stoll) will be back in the lineup at his old position," Kings coach Terry Murray said. "Certainly with his special teams play he's a big contributor. We're happy to have him back."

Smyth was a teammate of Stoll with the Oilers for four seasons and rattled off a number of his assets.

"It starts right from the faceoff circle," he said. "He plays in all areas – PK, the PP and obviously regular shifts. He's a good leader. He thinks the game really well and he's got some energy and he can shoot the puck.

"Working right now with Willie and I down low, Stollie finds the high slot and gets in that shooting lane. We've had some chemistry from the year and that helps. When you're communicating lots on the ice, it goes a long way."

Winning Game 2 without Stoll and first-line center Anze Kopitar, who suffered a broken ankle in a March 26 game against Colorado, showed that the Kings have more depth than they sometimes are given credit for.

"It gives us a sense of belief, guys digging in and showing a little character and coming through adversity," Smyth said. "I think it was a big stepping stone for our locker room and for our confidence."

Said defenseman Drew Doughty: "It was huge. I think a lot of people automatically counted us out of that game because (Kopitar) is out and Stollie was out as well. No one gave us a chance and we went in there as total underdogs. We like that."

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