SAN JOSE, Calif. – While expressing disappointment that center Jarret Stoll will sit out Saturday's playoff game against the San Jose Sharks after being assessed a one-game suspension, Los Angeles Kings coach Terry Murray said on Friday that Sharks defenseman Jason Demers' hit on Ryan Smyth was "five times" worse.
Stoll, whose role with the Kings is especially important because center Anze Kopitar is sidelined with a season-ending broken ankle, was suspended for his hit from behind against Sharks defenseman Ian White with 25.2 seconds remaining in the first period of Thursday's series opener, a 3-2 Sharks win in overtime.
White sustained what the Sharks are calling an upper-body injury, but it's believed he has a concussion. White didn't practice Friday and he isn't likely to play in Game 2 at HP Pavilion.
"He'll come to the rink (Saturday) and we'll evaluate him," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said after Friday's practice at Sharks Ice before hearing of the NHL's decision to suspend Stoll. "We've got to put the player's well being and health ahead of playing. When he's ready, he's a very important part and he'll be back in the lineup.
"We all know the protocol now for head injuries, and when he and the training staff march into my office and tell us he's ready to go, he'll play again."
McLellan declined further comment on the incident.
"I spoke to the hit (Thursday) night and my thoughts haven't changed and we're now preparing for Game 2," he said. "There's nothing we can do about it. We move on. We have a lot of work to do in a lot of different areas."
Stoll checked White behind the Sharks net and drove him into the boards. White's head struck the glass, and he fell to the ice. He struggled to rise, needed help to get to the dressing room, and didn't return.
After saying the Kings "accept the decision made by the League" regarding Stoll's penalty, Murray had plenty to say about Demers' hit against Smyth, which happened at 4:11 of the third period.
"If Jarret Stoll gets suspended for that hit, then Demers' is five times more severe a hit on Ryan Smyth than what Jarret Stoll's is on White," Murray said. "He meets every criterion that you can read about from League memorandums. Every coach, every player, every management, every owner knows about it.
"If you travel distance, you launch yourself two to three feet off the ice and throw an elbow at a person's head, that is a suspension, (a) big-time suspension. I was behind the bench when Philadelphia played in Ottawa and Steve Downie got suspended for 25 games. There is no difference in the intent of that hit."
Murray was a Flyers assistant on Sept. 25, 2007, when Downie, whose feet were off the ice, checked unsuspecting Senators' forward Dean McAmmond into the boards during a preseason game. McAmmond suffered a concussion and Downie was given a 20-game suspension.
Neither Stoll nor Demers were assessed penalties for Thursday's incidents.
"I may have left my feet, but (Smyth) was sort of falling back at the same time so I sort of fell on top of him," Demers said. "It wasn't as bad as it looked. I thought he was going to keep going forward and he backed up. As he was backing up, he was falling back. I was sort of off my feet, jumping forward and landed on top of him, but he seemed fine getting up. I think he was just mad that I kind of tackled him."
Smyth practiced Friday after logging 21:07 in ice time and registering four shots on goal in Thursday's game.
Stoll had a telephone hearing with NHL senior vice president Colin Campbell and other league officials before Friday's practice.
"I'm disappointed in the decision, but I respect it," Stoll said. "I just explained what I was thinking, what I did. I was honest with them. I told them what I thought. (Campbell) didn't say much. There were three or four people on the call who were doing the talking. He acknowledged what I said was honest and it will happen. I just got the decision when I got to practice, so I haven't talked to anybody yet.
"It hurts, for sure. (We're) down 1-0 and that game was there for us and we didn't get it. It's really tough to miss a playoff game. It's their call, they made it, and it's out of my hands."
Stoll said he is hopeful that White, who waited five years before playing in his first postseason game Thursday, makes a quick recovery.
"I hope he's OK," Stoll said. "You never want to see a guy get knocked out or (sustain) a concussion or miss any time. I missed a lot of time with a concussion years back and I know what it feels like. I definitely don't want to put anyone in that situation. He's a good player. I played against him in junior and I know a lot about him."
Murray said center Trevor Lewis would take Stoll's place on the second line with Smyth and Justin Williams. John Zeiler was recalled from AHL Manchester to take Lewis' spot on the fourth line with Kevin Westgarth and Alexei Ponikarovsky.
The Smyth-Stoll-Williams line accounted for a goal and two assists on Thursday. Stoll didn't have a point, but he won 13 of 20 faceoffs, helped the Kings kill both of the Sharks' power plays and was plus-1.
"Stoll is an important player for us," Murray said. "Not only does he play a lot of minutes on our second line -- you saw the success they had (Thursday) night – he is a key faceoff guy, a power-play point shooter, one of our top penalty killers. He's going to be missed. You're not going to replace that right-handed shot and right-handed faceoff man, so other guys are going to have to try to be better and just dig in and get the job done in that area.
"There's no one that we have that is going to be able to step in and replace everything that Jarret Stoll brings to our team."
McLellan said he would decide Saturday on White's replacement, which is expected to be rookie Justin Braun or Kent Huskins, who hasn't played since suffering an upper body injury in a Feb. 19 game against Colorado.