VIDEO INTERVIEWS: Includes full video interviews with Los Angeles Kings forwards Dustin Brown and Brad Richardson, and head coach Darryl Sutter that are available only from FrozenRoyaltyNHL on YouTube. Also includes video of the National Hockey League’s announcement and explanation for their decision to suspend San Jose Sharks forward Raffi Torres.
EL SEGUNDO, CA — On the eve of Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinal series between the Los Angeles Kings and the San Jose Sharks (tonight, 7:00 PM PDT, Staples Center; Kings lead the series, 1-0), virtually everyone was focused on the late-second period hit by Sharks forward Raffi Torres on Kings center Jarret Stoll.
Stoll did not return to the game, and may not be back anytime soon.
Kings head coach Darryl Sutter said Stoll was, “missing in action.”
“He’s day-to-day,” Sutter added. “But the series—we play seven games in twelve days. That makes it tough.”
Reading between the lines, Stoll may not be expected back in this series.
Meanwhile, Torres flew to New York on Thursday for an in-person disciplinary hearing today. He is suspended pending the results of that hearing.
According to a statement released by the National Hockey League, “Torres was offered the opportunity for an in-person hearing as required by provisions of the Collective Bargaining Agreement for any suspension that can exceed five games.”
The league statement continued: “The following grounds are being considered for supplemental discipline: illegal check to the head. However, the Department of Player Safety retains the right to make adjustments to the infraction upon review.”
After viewing the reverse angle of the video, it does appear that the principal point of contact was Stoll’s head, and that Torres’ raised his shoulder on the play to increase the force of the hit. Those factors, combined with his history as a multiple repeat offender—which is clearly playing a large role in this situation, indicate that Torres is likely to receive a rather lengthy suspension.
Back in Los Angeles, Torres’ teammates presented a united front behind him following their practice on Wednesday.
“I was on the ice, right beside it,” said Sharks center Logan Couture. “I thought it was shoulder-to-shoulder, a clean hit. Obviously, [Stoll] was injured on the play, so you hope the other guy is OK, but from what I saw, it was a clean hit.”
“I was surprised there was even a penalty on the play,” added Couture. “He didn’t charge him. He was two feet away from him when he hit him.”
Sharks captain Joe Thornton lamented the fact that Torres had to fly all the way to New York for what he believes is a unnecessary hearing.
“We questioned the call on the charging penalty, to be honest with you,” he said. “We were kind of shocked today to hear that he has to fly to New York for a hearing, because we didn’t see anything wrong on the play.”
“It’s unfortunate that Jarret was hurt, but we just thought it was a clean hit,” he added. “It looked to us like it was shoulder-to-shoulder. Jarret was down a little bit low, and Raffi just finished his check.”
“We support the game [Torres] played last night,” said Sharks center Joe Pavelski. “It’s unfortunate that he’s in the position he’s in right now. We have to accept whatever comes. This group has to rally behind it a little bit, and move forward. It can’t distract us.”
Kings Remain Focused On Task At Hand
Losing Stoll, arguably the Kings’ top face-off man, and a key to their penalty-kill, is a significant loss. Further it is a great “trade” for the Sharks, who will probably lose a checking forward who plays very limited minutes, while the Kings lose a key player who plays significant minutes, and in every situation.
Advantage: Sharks, and it’s a pretty big advantage.
“[Stoll is] a real good player for us,” said Sutter. “He was a big part of winning the Stanley Cup [last season]. He’s a really good center, a guy who plays [a lot of] minutes, a guy who plays special teams, so our player is quite a bit more important than theirs.”
Despite that, the Kings do not appear to be thinking about revenge, at least not in terms of extracurricular activities.
“I think we’re clearly a team that’s not going to lower itself to retribution,” said Sutter.
“That doesn’t even come into play. We talked about not taking retaliation or dumb penalties, and that’s not going to change.”
Kings captain Dustin Brown indicated that the players are in lockstep with their head coach.
“I think everyone is this room is probably not happy about it, and everyone over there is OK with it,” said Brown. “Every controversial hit is viewed with a different glass. It’s really up to what the league thinks. As players, we focus on playing.”
“You don’t want to see a teammate get hurt like that,” added Brown. “It’s important to understand that there’s way to do it, within the rules, and that’s what we have to do, regardless of what happens.”
“It’s the playoffs. The best retribution is winning games right now.”
Richardson Gets The Call
Sutter indicated that utility forward Brad Richardson will take Stoll’s spot in the lineup.
“We’ve got good options,” Sutter noted. “Brad’s good. He’s used to playing on our top nine. We’ll figure that out.”
“[Richardson is] an energy guy for us,” said Brown. “He’s not the biggest guy, but he provides a spark for our lineup. He’s a very versatile guy, due to the fact that he can play pretty much anywhere in our lineup, and be effective.”
“That’s part of this time of year—finding depth guys who can step up at the right time,” added Brown. “If he gets the opportunity, he needs to be ready to go.”
Brown emphasized that when a player goes down with an injury, others have to step up and help fill that role.
“Whenever one of your key guys goes down, it’s the responsibility of the other twenty guys to carry the load,” Brown stressed. “That’s the fun part about being a team.”
“Stoll was clearly one of our top penalty-killers,” Brown added. “[Winger Trevor Lewis and Stoll] always start on the draws. Again, it’s an opportunity for someone to step up into the role on the penalty-kill. We’re going to have to find a way to get the job done, regardless of personnel.”
“Part of our strength is our depth. When a situation like this happens, that’s when it comes into play, big time.”
For his part, Richardson knows he has some big skate boots to fill.
“[Stoll is] one of our clutch players, he’s the first one on the penalty-kill, he plays the power play for us, and he plays a lot of minutes,” said Richardson. “It’s a big loss. Hopefully, he’s not gone for long.”
“He plays with [left wing Dustin] Penner and Lewis, so they’re kind of a checking line, with a lot of speed, and straight lines [in terms of their play, up and down the ice],” added Richardson. “That’ll be my main focus—speed. It’s one of my best attributes.”
Richardson is indeed expected to jump into that center spot between Penner and Lewis
“It’s a great opportunity for Richardson to come in,” said Penner. “He’s a veteran guy, and he’s played a long time in this league. He’s going to be a great fit for [Lewis and I].”
“It’ll be nice,” said Richardson, who last played in Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinal playoff series against the St. Louis Blues on April 30). “I’m looking forward to getting back in there, so I’m excited.”
“Playoff time is big, and you want to play your best,” added Richardson. “Tomorrow I’m in, and I’m going to play the best game I can.”
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Post-Practice Interviews via KingsVision On YouTube
NHL Player Safety Decision on Raffi Torres Suspension
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Once again, Gann – GREAT STUFF! Loving that TEAM mentality our defending Champs carry in that locker room!!