Commentary

Kings-Sharks already causing fireworks

Updated: April 17, 2011, 1:30 AM ET
By Pierre LeBrun | ESPN.com

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- One game into the Kings-Sharks series, and there's no shortage of fireworks.

Los Angeles Kings coach Terry Murray didn't mince words Friday, while accepting the NHL's decision to suspend center Jarret Stoll for one game. He also took exception to a non-call on San Jose Sharks defenseman Jason Demers.

"I want to say this: If Jarret Stoll gets suspended for that hit, then Demers is five times more severe a hit on Ryan Smyth than what Jarret Stoll is on [Ian] White," the Kings' coach, visibly upset, said after practice. "He [Demers] meets every criteria 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 2 to 3 feet off the ice and throw an elbow at a person's head, that is a suspension. Big-time suspension."

There was no penalty on Demers' hit on Smyth in Game 1 on Thursday. A source told ESPN.com that Kings GM Dean Lombardi brought it up during Stoll's hearing with the league Friday, but Demers will not face any discipline. The league did review Demers' hit, as it would for any borderline hit, but deemed it within the lines.

"I was on the bench when Philadelphia played in Ottawa and Steve Downie got suspended for 25 games," Murray said, referencing a preseason hit on Dean McAmmond a few years back. "There is no difference in the intent of that hit."

It was suggested to Murray by a reporter that perhaps the difference Thursday night was that Ian White was knocked out of the game by Stoll's hit while Smyth got up and was fine.

[+] EnlargeDevin Setoguchi
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty ImagesThere was some serious hitting going on in Game 1 of the Kings-Sharks series, as Jarret Stoll checked Devin Setoguchi into the boards.

"I don't know what Colin Campbell's thinking; I don't know what other people think. They based their decision on what they're viewing and what the circumstances are," Murray said. "All I know is that the other hit is five times more severe, more intent, launching yourself 2 to 3 feet off the ice and a blow to the head? That is a major, long-time suspension."

Stoll's absence, meanwhile, is a tough blow for the Kings, who already are without star center Anze Kopitar from injury.

"It hurts for sure," Stoll said after Friday's practice. "Down 1-0, that game was there for us in Game 1. Guys got to step up. It's really tough to miss a playoff game for sure.

"Obviously, I'm disappointed," Stoll added. "But I respect Colin's decision."

Kings veteran blueliner Willie Mitchell has been an outspoken critic of head shots, having suffered a serious concussion last season. He didn't change his opinion on the issue despite hating losing a teammate for a playoff game.

"I believe you can't preach stuff and when it's not in your favor or best interest change your tune on it," Mitchell told ESPN.com. "I know Jarret as a person, he's a good guy, and that's the thing in this game, people are going to get suspended even when their intentions aren't to hurt someone. That just comes with competing hard, and we accept that as players. Suspensions are the things that will deter us in the moment to not do those things. ... To be honest with you, I think the league has done an excellent job in the second half of the season coming down with harder suspensions on it. You ask all the guys getting injuries from it, they're happy about it. No one wants to see their peers hurt from head injuries."

Obviously in the Sharks' dressing room, the players felt a suspension was warranted.

"Those are the hits they want out of the league," captain Joe Thornton said.

"Like I said last night, I didn't like it," defenseman Dan Boyle said. "Maybe four or five years ago, nobody would have said anything, but now with what they're trying to eliminate in the game and that's a prime example of a guy's head right against the boards."

Meanwhile, Stoll's absence creates another hole in the Kings' forward group. Kings fans were again filling cyberspace with pleas for highly touted center prospect Brayden Schenn, but after more internal debate, the Kings' front office decided to keep Schenn in the AHL where he was assigned Thursday. The feeling, it seems, is that Schenn simply isn't ready.

"We felt like our best offensive option was Trevor Lewis," Kings assistant GM Ron Hextall said.

Lewis, who was the fourth-line center for Game 1, will center Smyth and Justin Williams in place of Stoll for Game 2. The Kings had hoped to recall center John Zeiler from AHL Manchester, but because of a waivers snafu, they will instead have Oscar Moller in the lineup.

The Kings are being cautious with Schenn, their most highly rated prospect. They believe he needs more work on his defensive game, and his play in the AHL over the next few weeks will be tremendously beneficial to that end.

Pierre LeBrun covers the NHL for ESPN.com.