Published November 20, 2014
The Los Angeles Kings know they will be without forward Jarret Stoll for one game for his blindside hit that knocked San Jose defender Ian White out of Game 1 of their first-round series.
The Sharks don't know yet how long they will be without White, who missed practice Friday as he tries to recover from a head injury and is expected to miss at least one game.
The NHL suspended Stoll for Game 2 on Saturday night for hitting White in the league's latest crackdown on hits on defenseless players.
"Obviously I'm disappointed with the decision," Stoll said after practice Friday. "I don't want to miss any games, whether it's the regular season or especially the playoffs. I'm really disappointed with the decision, but I respect it."
The hit in question came at the end of the first period with White trying to play the puck while facing the end boards behind his own net. Stoll hit him from behind, appearing to drive his head into the glass with his forearm.
There was no penalty called on the play, but that did not help Stoll escape punishment.
"It was a dirty hit," said Sharks enforcer Ben Eager, who fought with Kyle Clifford on the ensuing faceoff. "I don't see how you could watch the replay and see it and not see it as a dirty hit. He had his back to him the whole time. Hopefully Whitey is all right."
White crumpled and looked groggy as he was helped off the ice with a cut on his face. He was examined by team doctors and has a head injury, coach Todd McLellan said.
McLellan would not say if White received a concussion, but said he will not play until doctors clear him.
"I hope he's OK," Stoll said. "You never want to see a guy get knocked out or have 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."
The suspension angered Kings management, with assistant general manager Ron Hextall saying hockey is a physical game and sometimes injuries happen and coach Terry Murray upset that Sharks defenseman Jason Demers wasn't punished at all for a hit later in the game on Ryan Smyth.
"That other hit is five times more severe, more intentional, traveling distance, launching yourself two to three feet off the ice and a blow to the head," he said. "That is a major longtime suspension."
The league did not see it that way and now the Kings must try to even up the series after a 3-2 overtime loss in Game 1 without their second-line center, who also plays important roles on the power play and penalty kill. Los Angeles is already without its top center, Anze Kopitar, who is sidelined by an ankle injury.
Now they must find a way to replace Stoll, who was their best faceoff man in Game 1 and teamed with Smyth and Justin Williams on Los Angeles' most productive line in the opener.
Stoll was one of six 20-goal scorers for the Kings this season, posting 20 goals and 23 assists. The Kings, who scored the fewest goals of any playoff team in the regular season, are now missing two of their top offensive threats.
"He's going to be missed," Murray said. "You're not going to replace that right-handed shot, right-handed faceoff guy. Other guys will have to try to be better and dig in and try to get the job done. There's no one we have who can step in and replace everything that Jarret Stoll brings to our game."
Trevor Lewis will move up to center that line with John Zeiler being called up from the minors to take a spot as fourth-line center.
McLellan has not decided whether rookie Justin Braun or veteran Kent Huskins will go in place of White on Saturday for Game 2. Huskins, who won the Stanley Cup in Anaheim in 2007, missed the final 22 games of the season with an upper-body injury and has just recently returned to practice.
Braun, a 24-year-old rookie, played 28 games this season with the Sharks, posting two goals and nine assists. He has a big shot from the point and got time on the power play.
"You don't want to see a guy go down, but you always have to be ready and be focused," he said. "I paid attention to the game last night as much as I could. I tried to take it all in."
White played 401 regular season games before finally making it to the postseason for the first time and got a point on his first shift. White started the game with Niclas Wallin and helped set up Dany Heatley's rebound goal just 28 seconds into the contest — the fastest playoff goal in Sharks history.
"He's been so pumped to play in the playoffs," Wallin said. "Three games before the end of the season the guy is jumping around and so pumped up. He's a competitive guy. He's going to come back."
White played eight more shifts in the first period and got involved on the offensive end before his injury in the final minute of the first period.