While the Kings will insert center Brad Richardson straight up as a replacement for the injured Stoll on the third line, with no other parts changing in the lineup, the Sharks shuffled the deck Thursday in the wake of Torres' pending suspension:
• Scott Gomez moves up from the fourth line to the third-line center spot.
• Left winger Andrew Desjardins moves down from the third line to the fourth line.
• Left winger James Sheppard moves up from the fourth line to the third line.
• Tim Kennedy, healthy scratch in Game 1, is inserted into the lineup as the fourth-line center.
Only Joe Thornton’s line remains intact from Game 1. The forward lines at Thursday’s morning skate:
The key move here is Pavelski moving up from No. 3 center to wing on the Couture line. While it improves San Jose’s offensive punch in the top six, it also removes the luxury of having such a talented player on the third line.
"We discussed a lot of different options," Sharks head coach Todd McLellan said after the morning skate. "And I don’t know if this is written in stone by any means. But we have to start somewhere and see where it goes. The majority of the scoring for the Kings in the playoffs have come from their top two lines. We like Pav there (on Couture’s line), he's a responsible two-way guy and he has the ability to help out in the faceoff circle against a (Anze) Kopitar or a (Mike) Richards."
Few elite players in the NHL have bounced around from center to wing more than Pavelski over the years. But he says he's fine with it.
"That was a nice stretch playing center, no doubt," Pavelski said of anchoring the third line for a while. "But to be back up with those guys is exciting, it's fun to play with them. Wing, center, it doesn't matter; I'm going to get to take faceoffs and if I'm the first guy back (in the defensive zone) I'll take that center position."
Richardson is ready
"I've been in this situation before so it's nothing new," Richardson said after the morning skate Thursday. "Stolly is a great player for us, I'm not trying to be him, I'm just going to play my game."
Richardson played the playoff opener in St. Louis but was replaced by Colin Fraser and hasn't played since. He appeared in 13 playoff games last spring, so he's a guy the Kings trust when they need him.
"He's played a good role for us, not always one that he's happy about because you're not using him all the time," Kings head coach Darryl Sutter said Thursday morning. "He prefers to play center. That's one thing him and I have talked about, he prefers to play center. He came into the NHL as a centerman."
The Kings' forward lines from the Thursday morning skate:
Kings dealing with injuries
A year ago, nearly as impressive as the manner in which the Kings steamrolled everyone to a Cup was the fact their lineup barely ever changed.
They were incredibly healthy, using the same six defensemen the entire playoffs, and all their key forwards were also healthy throughout.
"It's definitely different, but we're still happy with the team we have out here," star Kings blueliner Drew Doughty said Thursday morning. "The guys that have had to step in for those players have done a great job so far. Tonight, Richardson is coming in, he plays very similar to Stolly, he's a good two-way centerman, works hard and he’s going to bang bodies. So we’re happy with the team we got. I know we can overcome these things. The team that’s still in here can do it."
Sutter pointed to the lockout-shortened season and compact schedule as a factor.
"The 48-game game schedule tested everybody's depth for sure," said Sutter. "Everybody that’s still playing, (depth) is probably the reason. The schedule and the travel, you had to use everybody and put guys in situations. This just continues that."
The other difference is how rested the Kings were a year ago. They played short series and got lots of time between rounds to rest up. This year, they were physically tested and pushed to six games by a rugged St. Louis Blues squad, and the league is now trying to cram four playoff rounds into a shorter time frame.
That has an impact as well.
"You watch other series -- that Detroit-Chicago game last night, Detroit played a helluva game but in the end one team had a little more in the tank," said Sutter. "And Babs (Wings coach Mike Babcock) said, too, 'The day before we weren't very good in practice, either, we just went through a tough series and a lot of travel.' They're not machines, they're people, and we always forget about that."