Not Quite a Hat Trick

Forget what we said a couple of weeks ago. Justin Williams is made of paper after all. The proof came Monday night, when he suffered a dislocated shoulder

The irony of this? That Williams has never had a sustained healthy period in recent memory, but that this seemed to be his year. He had 57 points in 73 games, on pace for 60-plus. It would have been his third-best campaign, and the first since 2006-07 when he had played the entire year. In fact, it still will be his third-best, but he’ll be finishing it, unless the Kings make it pretty far down the playoff tourney, with a suit on.

As we’ve recalled prior, when Williams turned up in LA in the spring of 2009, he did so with a cast on his right hand. At the time, he called the injury a freak thing. Last year, he broke a leg in a weird fall on the ice, truly a freak.

Assuming that was all behind him, the team “extended” him at the end of February, offering him a reported 14.6 million bucks to stay for another four years.

Now, that’s all over. He’s out, and the team is looking to shore up their top six, something they strengthened considerably by grabbing Dustin Penner from Edmonton at the trade deadline. Penner has been with the Kings for 11 games — counting Thursday’s game against the Sharks — and has six points, but in reality his value is more than that reflects. He’s got the big body that the team needed, and he makes his linemates, namely Kopitar and Williams, better.

Oh wait, there’s no Williams. What to do? The team has recalled their speedy prospect, Oscar Moller, from Manchester. He’s been “up” before; in fact, this is his sixth recall according to a media report this evening. In 2008-09, he played 40 games. In 2009-10, 34. This year, so far, it’s just five, but he has a goal and three assists in that time. Not bad. And he’s fast, as he demonstrated against the Sharks at a sold-out Staples Center on Thursday, grabbing a puck and going down the right side in the first period to force Antti Niemi to make a good leg save, and stop a rebound, too.

Moller found himself getting some power play time as well, and on the night, he ended up with five shots. The team posted more than they typically do, with 34 by the end of the regulation, which the Sharks tied at 3-3 with 4.1 seconds remaining after the Kings had gone ahead late. The Sharks? The Ducks? These California teams have a knack, as the Anaheim team tied their game last night with just 3.4 ticks left in Dallas.

The Kings’ other lines, for those keeping track, featured no bruiser in that Kevin Westgarth was sidelined as a scratch. That meant that the fourth unit was Kyle Clifford, Trevor Lewis, and Brad Richardson. Clifford has recently had a week off after suffering a concussion on a one-punch knockout at the hands of the Blues’ Ryan Reaves. It was not only nasty, but unnecessary, coming off of no apparent provocation.  But as they say, that’s the way these guys earn their living, so let’s leave them to it.

The fourth line, by the way, is speedier with Richardson on it. He’s probably the most underrated guy on the team’s roster, but he contributes—18 points in 59 games.

The third line, and the second, looked like this: Alexi Ponikarovsky, Jarret Stoll, Wayne Simmonds; and Ryan Smyth, Dustin Brown, Michal Handzus. Which was which? Doesn’t matter—there’s no real shutdown line, as there was when it was Handzus, Simmonds, and a third rotating cast member. Now, the team all play defense, and they all contribute on the scoring.

On this night, Brown had two goals, both on the power play. The other was by Willie Mitchell, his fourth of the year, at even strength. Moller got the only assist on that one.

Right. Back to Moller. He’s Swedish, he’s 22, and he’s 5-foot-11’ and 182 pounds. His year in the AHL has featured almost a point a game, and he was surprised to get the callup, because the NHL squad has had their lineup pretty much stabilized at least since the addition of Penner. About the only changes night to night are that Clifford and Westgarth sometimes trade off, Peter Harrold makes the occasional appearance, and Davis Drewiske plays bytimes. The latter two are essentially defensemen, though Harrold gets in on the wing some games. But neither occupies a spot Moller might take. Nope, it’s Williams and his fragility that has given the kid his latest chance. Judging by what he did Thursday, he’ll likely find himself putting in some more days in the bigs.

The team meanwhile got 38 shots on net and gave up 27. They took the Sharks to the shootout, and went through three rounds with nobody winning.  Nothing happened in the fourth. In the fifth, Brown scored—not a hat trick, but let’s call it that for the moment—and the Sharks’ Marleau lost the puck.

Kings win—4-3. They are now 9-2 in shootouts this year.


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