Oscar Moller, NHL center

Oscar Moller not only is staying with the Kings, he has moved into a second-line center role between Alexander Frolov and Kyle Calder, an important role on a team looking for scoring depth. I talked to Moller today, before he got official word from the Kings that he was staying in the NHL…


Question: You had to know the coaches and management were watching you pretty closely last night. Did you think you played well?

MOLLER: “Yeah, I thought I did OK. I was still minus-2 and I took a stupid penalty, but I had some good scoring chances. (Luongo) made a good save on the first one but I should have buried a couple other ones. But overall I thought I played OK.”

Question: What would it mean to you to be able to stay here?

MOLLER: “It would be huge for me. I would be really happy if they would keep me here. I would be working really hard, and I really want to stick around.”

Question: Have you reached the point where you’re comfortable playing with pretty much anyone on the team?

MOLLER: “Yeah. Right now it doesn’t really matter who I’m playing with. We talk out there and support each other, so everything works fine.”

Question: Is there anything in particular that you’ve learned about playing in the NHL

MOLLER: “Probably just being consistent every night, execution of things, the systems, passing, all of those kind of things. The speed is higher and the pace is higher, so it’s all of those things.”

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Moller earns his spot

Oscar Moller is sticking around. To clarify, when Moller plays his 10th game tomorrow, he will officially draw a NHL salary and his “clock” toward free agency will start. The Kings can still send him back to his junior team, if they choose, but they won’t get that year back. Moller has two goals and two assists in nine games this season. Here’s what Dean Lombardi said about the decision to keep Moller…

LOMBARDI: “With the way he has played, he deserves to be here. As with all our young players, we will continue to monitor his progress. It doesn’t mean he can’t go back, if he hits a lull or slacks off, but with Oscar, I don’t think that’s going to be the case.”

Moller, who played center in training camp and some exhibition games, will go back to center on a line with Alexander Frolov and Kyle Calder tomorrow night.

TERRY MURRAY: “He’s done a very good job. He has played very well, and he is a natural center iceman. We’re looking for something good to happen off that line. We’ll put him at center for a game and take a look at it and see if that line can start to be a threat in the offensive part of the game. That’s a good thing for the team, and everything is being done for the team only.”

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LaBarbera goes 10-for-10

Jason LaBarbera will be back in goal tomorrow night for his 10th consecutive start. He’s not even close to a record though. According to Elias Sports Bureau, Gerry Desjardins started the first 23 games of the 1969-70 season, the most consecutive starts by a Kings goalie to start a season. So, check back in a month…

LaBarbera has a 3.01 goals-against average and a .886 save percentage, and for better or worse, Terry Murry has been steadfast in going back to LaBarbera. Here’s what Murray said, when asked if LaBarbera would be back in tomorrow…

MURRAY: “Yeah, I’m going to go back to LaBarbera tomorrow. You know, (early in the game) it’s a 5-on-3 and it goes to a 5-on-4 and it’s one of those top-of-the-goal-crease redirections. The only one, I’m sure, he would like to have over again is the 4-on-4 one, the short-side one, the second goal, but he gave us some very big stops. There was a lot of power-play, special-teams play last night, and he came up very big at the right times. He need to be better as a team. Everybody needs to step up their game in front, and we’ve got to really improve our play from the dots to the boards. We’re giving up too many plays that are coming back at us from those areas.”

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Moulson gets another chance

Matt Moulson has gone from first-line winger to healthy scratch to fourth-line winger, back to first-line winger. That’s where he will play Saturday against Calgary, as Patrick O’Sullivan drops down to skate with Michal Handzus and Wayne Simmonds. That, I’m told, is an attempt to get the “gritty” part of O’Sullivan’s game going again, the part that elevated him to first-line status last year to begin with.

But back to Moulson. He has one goal, zero assists and a minus-3 rating, but the hope is that he can be strong in front of the net and pounce on some scoring opportunities. Here’s what Terry Murray said about Moulson’s comeback…

MURRAY: “He has worked really hard. All the guys that have been out, I’ve got to tip my hat to them. They’ve given me a lot of hard work and tried to get themselves ready and tried to get refocused and listened to what it is that they need to add or improve in their game in order to contribute for us. Moulson, he had a good training camp and I’m looking for him just to get back to that same level. Hopefully that message has been sent by taking him out of the lineup for a couple games.”

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Big fall for Stoll

Jarret Stoll, who spent the first nine games of the season in the important role of second-line center, will drop to a fourth-line winger tomorrow night against Calgary. It’s been an up-and-down season for Stoll. He came under criticism for a slow start, seemed to pick it up and now, it seems, is back in the doghouse a bit. I asked Terry Murray for the reason for Stoll’s quick, big drop…

MURRAY: “Well, that’s something I need to sit down and have a little talk with him about, in a one-on-one. But it’s just a change right now. We need some scoring. We’re not getting enough pucks to the net. We’re not having that shot mentality that we had in the early part of the year. We need more contributions from everybody, and certainly I’m looking at the second line, with Stolly, being a line that’s pretty skilled and has the ability to score, and we need to get more from that line. I’m looking at Moller, seeing if maybe he can be that creative guy that he was back in training camp.”

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Boyle back in

Brian Boyle, a healthy scratch in the last five games, will return to the Kings’ lineup tomorrow and center a line with Jarret Stoll and Raitis Ivanans. The Kings have challenged Boyle, who has zero points and a minus-4 rating in three games this season, to play a tougher game at both ends, and Terry Murray said he’s pleased with the progress Boyle has made…

MURRAY: “Boyle has been out of the lineup for a while and he’s been working really hard in practice. We’ve had several talks about what we need from him, as far as the style of play and what his role is. We’re seeing more of that. We saw it yesterday, we saw it today in the practice, using his size and strength to be one of his trump cards. If we can get him going at the level that we need and are able to get four lines playing at a high level, we’re going to be a better hockey club because of it. In too many games this year, already, I feel I’ve shut down that fourth line, having them play only three, four minutes. We need to get some flow with our game, much more intensity, shorter shifts and a greater contribution from that fourth line. Then we’re going to be a better hockey club.”

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Line changes confirmed

The Kings’ forwards will indeed skate tomorrow the way they practiced today. Jason LaBarbera will be in goal for his 10th consecutive start. Here’s an initial quote from Terry Murray about the lineup shakeup:

MURRAY: “We’re looking to get some wins and we’re looking to get a consistent level of play from our four lines. I think that whenever you lose three in a row, and especially the game last night, I think it brought a lot of focus to the need for change in personnel on lines and on the special-teams look. We just had a penalty-kill meeting, and we’re trying to get refocused on the attitude we had in the early part of the season, meaning the first five, six games. Last night was just a game where we didn’t get into it, I guess, because of our special teams. Both our penalty kill and our power play seemed to shut down at the same time last night, and we have to bring attention back and we have to get refocused here. We’ve got a huge game tomorrow against a very aggressive and determined team, and we know that we’re going to have our hands full, so we’re trying to bring some focus back to what we need to get done.”

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Finding consistency

Consistency is an issue for the Kings, as it is for any young team. The Kings are a couple minutes away from an impressive victory against Detroit, then come back with a clunker against Vancouver. It’s obviously not all about youth, as veterans make mistakes as well, but it’s clear that the Kings aren’t going to start turning things around until they can string together three or four consecutive strong efforts, games in which they have good play from forwards, defensemen and the goalie at the same time. Here’s what Matt Greene said about finding consistency…

GREENE: “I think that’s something we’ve got to work on. I think that’s what the good teams in this league do. They have consistency. That’s what we have to work toward. We’ve got to bring the same effort every night. Tonight we just didn’t do it. We didn’t have the same grit and the same drive that we did against Detroit and the other games that we played leading up to that. If we can figure out what it was, then obviously we can fix it. It’s just something that we have to learn, going through it as a team as the year goes on, if we want to be successful.”

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