The morning skate, San Jose style: Jarret Stoll to return
Greetings from San Jose, where the Kings tonight will finish the road portion of their season series against the Sharks. They lost a shootout at HP Pavilion, 2-1, on Oct. 28 and won, 5-4, on Dec. 9. After tonight the teams will meet twice more at Staples Center, on Jan. 11 and Jan. 19.
The Kings had an optional skate this morning but most players participated. Among them was center Jarret Stoll, who was activated off injured reserve and will play tonight. Stoll missed seven games because of a sore groin.
In the day’s other transaction, the Kings signed junior-level defenseman Jacob Muzzin to a three-year entry level contract. Muzzin plays for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League and leads that league’s defensemen in scoring, with 46 points. He was drafted by the Penguins in 2007 but didn’t sign with them and was a free agent.
Of the two moves, Stoll’s return has immediate impact for the Kings. He leads the team -- and ranks 15th in the NHL -- with a 54.6% success rate on faceoffs, and he had 10 goals and 25 points in 33 games.
“I’m back in, so I’m happy,” Stoll said.
He also said that although it took him longer to return than he had anticipated, he and the team didn’t want to rush things because he has dealt with this before and missed two games in late November. He has adopted new exercises and continued his stretching routine to strengthen the area.
“The point of the season where we were, we wanted to be smart about it,” he said. “I had the same kind of problem twice already and that makes us even be a little more cautious with it. I want to play through the end of the playoffs or whenever we’re done. I don’t want to come back out of the lineup.
“It took an extra week or so but I’ve been working hard in the gym getting the strength back and I’m ready to go.”
Coach Terry Murray said Stoll will get limited minutes five-on-five but will play on special teams. “Kind of break him into the lineup again,” Murray said. “He’s a welcome addition back.”
Oscar Moller will move to Stoll’s right wing and Raitis Ivanans will play the other side.
“I’m certainly looking forward to having a right-handed centericeman back out there on that D-zone side on the right side,” Murray said. “We’ve been below average on the faceoffs recently and he’s going to give us a nice boost in that area.”-----
Right wing Wayne Simmonds made a remarkably rapid recovery after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery Dec. 14, returning to the lineup Dec. 26 after missing only four games. But he seemed tentative at first, which was only natural.
However, Simmonds seemed more active and involved in the Kings’ last two games, and his 15 minutes, 37 seconds’ ice time in their 2-1 victory over Washington on Saturday represented his busiest night of the five he has played since his return.
“It feels good, actually. The doctor said it’s going to be sore for probably the next three weeks. It doesn’t hurt. It doesn’t limit me from any movement. It’s been feeling good lately.”
He credited the extra jump he had on Saturday to the good chemistry he has with linemates Scott Parse and Brad Richardson.
“I like playing with those two. We work well together,” he said. “Kind of like second nature with the three of us.”
Murray said he has seen Simmonds progress the last few games.
“There’s no doubt when you have an operation that you’re going to feel something as a result of that, a few weeks after it’s over. And he still has that little bit of tightness, little bit of soreness that he just works through,” Murray said.
“I think as you get further away from the time when he had the operation he’s feeling much better and every day it’s going that way. Energy’s back, better jump, and confidence in his knee also.”
More later at www.latimes.com/sports.
-- Helene Elliott reporting from San Jose
Photo: Kings' Michal Handzus is congratulated by his teammates after scoring the go-ahead goal against the Washington Capitals in Los Angeles on Jan. 2. Credit: Jeff Gross / Getty Images.