Coach Terry Murray said a lack of production wasn't the only reason he pulled left wing Marco Sturm off the Kings' top line and placed on a stopper line with Kyle Clifford and Jarret Stoll.
Murray had said Wednesday that Sturm “is still going through training camp” as he recovers from major surgery on his right knee performed last May, but Murray elaborated on that Thursday to say he hasn’t been satisfied with Sturm’s work ethic.
Sturm has two goals and three points in the eight games he has played since the Kings acquired him from Boston for future considerations on Dec. 11. Murray said he discussed Sturm’s performance with the left wing on Wednesday.
“I don’t like to talk about what I said to players in individual meetings because it is confidential and they have to have my trust on it, but training camp, you work hard. I don’t care if you’ve been off all summer, if you’ve been off with an injury. Training camp is a time of hard work,” Murray said after Thursday's morning skate in El Segundo.
“So if that’s the case, which we discussed with him, and I understand that he’s coming off a couple of very serious injuries and trying to get everything in order and it is part of a process to get the confidence back, get your legs under yourself, you’re with a new team, new linemates, often. But you still have to come and be intense and work hard and really compete. I don’t care where you are, what the situation is you’re going through, and that’s what the demand was from me to him [Wednesday].”
Asked if the problem was that he wasn't seeing those things from Sturm, Murray said that was the case. “A veteran hockey player has to come and be intense, be it hard work, be a competitive guy every shift, every practice, every game. And that’s the expectations," Murray said. "That’s the demands I have of players and I look at the scenario he’s coming through and I understand it. I have compassion for it but I need more.”
Speaking before Murray offered that harsh assessment, Sturm acknowledged that he isn’t close to 100%.
“I still have to find my game here,” he said. “I try to work hard even off the ice. I have to catch up to a lot of things here. I’m probably in the middle of it and hopefully I can get out of this pretty soon.”
Sturm endured a long recovery process after undergoing surgery on his left knee two years ago but had a full training camp to get back into shape. “I had a whole preseason to get prepared and even the first month of October, it took me some time too,” he said, referring to the 2009-10 season.
“Now I got no time so I try to rush it and put a lot of pressure on myself too. It’s sometimes not easy.”
He also said he can handle a more checking-oriented role with his new linemates. “It doesn’t matter. We have a pretty good, solid lineup and I’ll just try to find my legs,” he said. “I think Stollie is a good centerman. I think we should be a good line.”
The other combinations that Murray concocted for Wednesday’s practice remained intact at Thursday’s morning skate, but one lineup change is possible for Thursday’s game against the Nashville Predators at Staples Center.
Defenseman Matt Greene reported to the team’s practice facility but felt too ill to skate because of what Murray guessed is a flu bug. If Greene can’t play, Peter Harrold will replace him.
“I’m hoping we see him tonight,” Murray said of Greene. “A couple guys have gone through it in the last few days. They bounced back and were able to get through it in practice [Wednesday] at a pretty good level of play, so I’m hoping that Greener can find a way to get back here tonight.”
Defenseman Willie Mitchell, out since Dec. 16 because of a knee injury, and left wing Alexei Ponikarovsky, who injured an ankle on Dec. 26, participated in the morning skate and are getting close to returning.
“I think both those guys are still out of the lineup, but as you can tell they’re skating well, feeling more comfortable every day that they’re on the ice, so, real close," Murray said. "Maybe both fall into the day-to-day category now. It’s encouraging to see what’s going on with their hard work.”
Those new lines, in case you missed Wednesday’s news, are:
Dustin Brown-Anze Kopitar-Wayne Simmonds; Ryan Smyth-Michal Handzus-Justin Williams; Clifford-Stoll-Sturm, and Brad Richardson-Trevor Lewis-Kevin Westgarth.
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-- Helene Elliott
Photo: Marco Sturm. Credit: Christian Petersen / Getty Images.